TIFF21 REVIEW: Costa Brava, Lebanon [2022]

I flushed hope down the toilet long ago. What can you do when your homeland is falling apart? The easy answer is stay or leave, but both options carry too much complexity to simply choose and be done. For starters, not everyone has that choice whether due to finances, family, or a myriad other possible reasons. And those who are able must dig deep within themselves to rationalize why. Do you leave because of greater opportunity? Do you stay because you want to be part of the solution? Or do…

Read More

TIFF21 REVIEW: Farha [2021]

What brought you back? The text reads: Palestine, 1948. That’s all you need to know to understand what’s coming. A year earlier was the start of the Palestinian Civil War between Jewish and Arab residents after the United Nations recommended the land’s separation in a Jewish and Arab state. Israel declared independence in May of 1948 and, as some history books describe it, a mass exodus arose to render about half of the nation’s pre-WWII Arab population (700,000) into refugees without a home. To simply call it an exodus, however,…

Read More

REVIEW: Sayyedat al-Bahr [Scales] [2021]

Maybe there was another choice. To be expendable is to be replaced because those in power of the situation deem you easier to discard than protect. It’s the driving force of bigotry throughout the world on religious, racial, and gender lines because it’s predicated on the idea that one group is superior to another. And that group is allowed to dictate those terms simply because they are in control. It doesn’t matter what reasons they had for drawing the line either since the moment it appears is the moment when…

Read More

REVIEW:The Present [2021]

I have my daughter with me. It’s easy for oppressive regimes to call their opposition terrorists when they have all the control. Wherever you may reside (look at the difference in rhetoric between how the American GOP described BLM protestors during the summer and white insurrectionists during the winter), power always breeds injustice. And it isn’t simply through action either. Some of the worst cases of exploitation and discrimination occur through inaction thanks to rules and regulations that allow humanity to be removed from the equation altogether. That’s why their…

Read More

REVIEW: Hunger Ward [2021]

What they all have in common is malnutrition and heartbreak. It shouldn’t be surprising that Skye Fitzgerald‘s documentary short Hunger Ward proves a tough watch considering many in America and Europe are unaware of the tragedy unfolding in Yemen despite its 2014 origins. We’re talking about the worst famine in one hundred years ignited by a civil war that those knowledgeable of the conflict say is really an offshoot of a bigger one between Saudi Arabia (who supports the former government) and Iran (who supports the rebel government that has…

Read More

REVIEW: Nefta Football Club [2019]

I’m going to piss in Algeria. Two men (Lyès Salem‘s Salim and Hichem Mesbah‘s Ali) are searching for a mule. Two boys (Eltayef Dhaoui‘s Mohamed and Mohamed Ali Ayari‘s Abdallah) are on their way to a makeshift desert soccer field to have a match with the friends when they come across the animal standing on the Tunisian/Algerian border. Mohamed doesn’t have time to deal with his little brother’s excitement at finding the surreal scenario that is an abandoned mule listening to music through headphones, but he checks what’s in the…

Read More

REVIEW: Brotherhood [2019]

Promise me that you’ll never go there. Terrorism is a complex topic too many gloss over in a desire to pretend it’s simple. We generalize and make blanket declarations against an enemy all while refusing to even attempt to understand where they’re coming from. So we of course would never accept the reality that it’s often our own actions that ultimately ignite theirs. It’s why Zionists in Israel label Palestinians terrorists despite being the ones who stole their land. It’s why Americans adopt xenophobic ideologies that lump good people in…

Read More

REVIEW: For Sama [2019]

I don’t regret anything. After five years of footage depicting the rapid decline in Aleppo as college protests turn to rebellion with a dictatorial regime finding friends in Russia to decimate innocent civilians it intentionally refuses to differentiate from soldiers and extremists, Waad al-Kateab realizes that the snippets she’s uploaded to expose these atrocities to the world on YouTube are just as important for Syrians to remember what was and what happened. It’s about the uncertainty of whether you’ll see another day. The futility of watching friends and loved ones…

Read More

OIFF19 REVIEW: Mafak [Screwdriver] [2019]

I didn’t even cry. You hate to think of the United States as a warzone and yet that’s exactly what it is in many respects. Whether a for-profit prison system leaving a largely Black population disenfranchised, unemployable, and haunted or caged children who crossed the Southern border for asylum only to be scarred by the psychological torture of being indefinitely ripped from their parents, minorities across our country are being held as prisoners of war without any concrete conflict on the books. Multiply this tragedy by a thousand and you…

Read More

TIFF19 REVIEW: 1982 [2019]

Don’t invite the war into our home. Before 2007, all Lebanese men were conscripted to serve in the military for at least one year. I’ve heard from multiple people that it wasn’t a question of citizenship, but ethnicity. If I ever visited before that year, I wouldn’t have been able to return to America without fulfilling that obligation. Whether or not this was actually true—I’m not certain. But even if it wasn’t, all the children born there during a lengthy civil war against Syrian occupation and an eventual Israeli invasion…

Read More

VENICE19 REVIEW: Les épouvantails [The Scarecrows] [2019]

You’re not lost. It begins in a prison cell with a despondent Djo (Joumene Limam) scribbling words on paper as Zina (Nour Hajri) implores her to stand so they may leave. Salvation comes in the form of a lawyer (Afef Ben Mahmoud‘s Nadia) and doctor (Fatma Ben Saïdane‘s Dora) desperate to figure out what has happened and how they were able to return to Tunisia. Details about this question only start to come into focus as Nouri Bouzid‘s Les épouvantails [The Scarecrows] progresses with the explanation that the two women…

Read More