Last Friday I saw a screening of the Palestinian film Pomegranates and Myrrh (Al Mor Wa Al Rumman) at the Kennedy Center. It was part of the Center’s 3 week long Arabesque Festival. The film is directed by Najwa Najjar, who was present at the screening. This is how Najjar summarizes the film:
A free spirited woman dancer, Kamar, finds herself the wife of a prisoner, Zaid, and away from everything she loves until she returns to the dance, defying society’s taboos. At the dance Kamar is confronted with Kais, a Palestinian returnee, who has taken Kamar’s role as the head choreographer. Sparks fly between Kamar and Kais, creating more than a passionate, emotional dance for the both of them. Matters become even more complicated when Zaid’s sentence is extended. At the same time the family’s legal case against the land confiscation faces one obstacle after another and the villagers from the nearby villages are unable to reach the family’s olive groves, placing the annual harvest and consequently the family’s livelihood in danger. And Kamar’s life is thrown into turmoil as she becomes increasingly attached to Kais, and caught in the midst of her desire to dance and breaking the family and society taboos of the prisoner’s wife’s role while life under occupation rages on.
What I liked about this movie is that even though it portrays the struggles that Palestinians go through as a result of the Israeli occupation such as land confiscation, prison, checkpoints, curfews, etc., it was really a story about relationships. It was refreshing to see a Palestinian film that portrays the love between a husband and wife and the struggles they go through. The relationship between Kamar and Kais surely adds spice to the story. Some people may object to the portrayal of such a relationship because they would say that it’s not indicative of the behavior of a prisoner’s wife. I say nobody’s perfect and even though we don’t hear about such relationships, it doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. Plus, it makes for a good story so I didn’t mind it at all. The film also has spectacular views of olive groves in the Ramallah area. Seeing those beautiful vistas makes you want to book a ticket to Palestine right away and be there.
The film has great performances, particularly by the fantastic Hiam Abbass (Paradise Now, The Visitor). She provides some much appreciated comic relief in the film but also shows the true grit of Palestinian women. She’s just awesome! Ali Suleiman (Paradise Now) and Yasmine Al Masri (Caramel) were good as well. Ashraf Farah, who plays Zaid, was stunning. In fear of sounding like Paris Hilton, he was totally hot! But seriously, it’s his portrayal as the strong, loving man who loves his land as much as he loves his wife that is really attractive. Hopefully, we’ll see more of him in films to come.
In conclusion, I loved the film! I highly recommend it. When Najjar was asked after the screening if the film will be distributed in the US, she said she hopes so. The film had been screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and had done pretty well. As a result, there’s been some solid interest by a distributor but no deal has been made yet. I hope the deal comes through so that everyone has the opportunity to go and see this great Palestinian film.