As wedding festivities get underway in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel, Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour) finds herself in the awkward position of hosting her husband Suliman's ( Haitham Omari) marriage to a second, much younger wife. During the celebration, Jalila stumbles across her eldest daughter Layla's (Lammis Amar) involvement with a boy from her university-a strictly forbidden liaison that would shame the family. Burying the indignity of Suliman and his new bride living next door, Jalila also tries to contain Layla's situation by clamping down on her. But younger and possessed of a boundless spirit, Layla sees a different life for herself...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's not exactly an original story; young girl in a tradition-abiding community meets a boy considered an outsider, and to avoid the shame her father finds her a boy from their own tribe, against her wishes, needless to say. But it's not the story that engages us; it's the storytelling and the cinematic language. An economical screenplay with the barest dialogue is given screen life with images, silences and action. Perhaps a tad too economical: it is ever made clear why the boy is taboo ....
Central to the film's success and engagement is Lammis Amar as Layla, the eldest of four daughters, a young woman whose character is not easily subdued by tradition. She rebels and defies her mother, Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour), who rebels and defies her husband Suliman (Haitham Omari), and both decisions have consequences - although not predictable ones.
Lammis Amar has one of those faces destined for the cinema, expressive, vulnerable, defiant, contemplative, loving ... she hardly needs words at all. Cinematographer Shai Peleg lights her beautifully, mostly with natural light sources, and it her face that we will remember from the film.
The setting in a poor, patriarchal Bedouin village on the outskirts of modernity - though not without mobile phones - is as dry and dusty as the traditions by which the characters live, gripped by the paternalistic customs that are no longer sustainable. Jalila senses this, and while she instinctively reacts against her daughter's desire to ignore the old rules, she does take steps to close the gap in their relationship - albeit at a price. And it doesn't lead to the happy ending we might expect.
In one scene, Lyla tells her duty driven dad, who claims he has no choice in such things but to do what is expected by customs, 'there is always a choice'; and she shows it most powerfully in a later scene.
Hence the film gains from being about individual choice as much as about tradition or fighting it. The performances, from the adults to the youngsters, are all excellent, authentic and moving.
It's a modest film, somewhat slight in its dramatic content, but with great heart and fine craftsmanship that has seduced festival goers and film critics - and general audiences.
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SAND STORM (PG)
CAST: Lamis Ammar, Ruba Blal-Asfour, Haitham Omari, Khadija Alakel, Jalal Masarwa
PRODUCER: Haim Mecklberg and EsteeYacov-Mecklberg
DIRECTOR: Elite Zexer
SCRIPT: Elite Zexer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shai Peleg
EDITOR: Ronit Porat
MUSIC: Ran Bagno
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nir Adler, Chen Gilad
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: JIFF Distrib ution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 1, 2016