This could be a sweet story of a 60-year-old bachelor who is smitten by a woman around his age. He attempts to court her, but doesn’t really know what to do except wear too much men’s cologne. Endearingly shy, their stilted encounters and attempts to communicate fail but make them smile. Neither seems to know what to do.
However, the title belies a secondary story: “Gaza Mon Amour.” Despite everything, despite the poverty, the embargo, the apartheid, the humiliation, the harassment, the suffering, and the loss of freedom, the Palestinians do not give Gaza up. Gaza is the lover for whom they are willing to sacrifice.
Together, the explicit and implicit stories combine to tell what life and love is like in Gaza. Together with the West Bank, Gaza is claimed by the de jure sovereign State of Palestine, but subject to Israeli laws and apartheid. Both stories have confusion, roadblocks, and desire.
The film opens with Issa stopped at an Israeli checkpoint. His papers are checked and the contents of his makeshift vehicle are inspected. It takes awhile. Thwarted by this daily encounter with a checkpoint, where there is no nice building with marble floors and a bathroom, he must relieve himself there in the open road.
Issa is a night fisherman off the Mediterranean coast of the Gaza Strip. He makes an adequate harvest each night from net fishing. But adding whimsical humor to the plot, one night he pulls up an especially heavy net that holds an ancient statue of Apollo instead of the customary fish. In addition, in a dash of slapstick, Apollo has a startling body part that is knocked off as Issa tries to situate it in his lodging.
Apollo, representing order, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, light, poetry, and more, is one of the most complex of the Greek gods. Why does he appear in Issa’s fishing net and how can his net drag up such a heavy Grecian statue anyway? Implausible and bordering on magical realism, “Gaza Mon Amour” becomes just as complicated and surreal as the reality of the Palestinian plight.
Written and directed by handsome identical twin brothers, Tarzan and Arab Nasser, “Gaza Mon Amour” reflects their own lives. Born in Gaza in 1988, ironically one year after the last cinemas in Gaza were closed, they are insightful filmmakers. One says, “We want to talk about the real life in Gaza without talking about the subject we always talk about.” The result is that they show love, humor, and internal conflicts between Palestinians in the context of poverty and sequestration in a lively, conflicted romance.
The official entry for Palestine for Best International Feature Film for the 2021 Academy Awards, “Gaza Mon Amour” is a richly developed creative film that makes you wish for more.
Directors: Tarzan and Arab Nasser
Writers: Tarzan and Arab Nasser
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Salim Dau, Maisa Abd Elhadi and George Iskandar
Producers: Marie Legrand, Rani Massalha and Michael Eckelt
Coproducers: Rashid Abdelhamid, Pandora da Cunha Telles, Pablo Iraola and Khaled Haddad
Release: Nov. 5 2021, in select theatres and VOD
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