Wajib – The Wedding Invitation film review: heart and soul in a harsh land

Wajib – The Wedding Invitation.
Wajib – The Wedding Invitation.

LOVE, life and family meander across the screen in Annemarie Jacir’s beautifully realised Palestinian road movie Wajib – The Wedding Invitation.

Wajib means ‘duty’ and there are all manner of duty and customs observed herein, from the endless salutations and shows of respect to the ritual that forms the basis of the film.

Architect Shadi (Saleh Bakri) has returned from Rome, where he lives with his Palestinian girlfriend, back to Nazareth where his sister Amal (Maria Zriek) is to be married.

According to tradition, Shadi and his divorced dad, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri), must drive around town delivering wedding invitations.

So it is, the viewer buckles into an old Volvo for this low-octane, but endlessly revealing ride among family and friends.

There are plenty of cultural and personal collisions here, wonderfully and touchingly illuminated by the real-life father and son leads.

Who, after all, can niggle quite like a parent, or conversely a child?

It’s quickly evident these problems are inherent to every family from Iceland to Damascus, and everywhere in between, and in much the same way.

Of course, a story about Palestinians finding their way in Israeli-occupied land has extra layers of tension, but we come to see many of the struggles depicted as universal ones.

Perhaps more tellingly, worldly director Jacir, a Palestinian raised in Saudi Arabia and educated in New York, looks at the drifts that have happened across the world through globalisation.

Abu Shadi, a respected teacher in line to become headmaster, is assiduously wedded to his country and his place, rejecting outside influences and accepting the struggles and compromises of his conflicted, ancient land.

Stylish, modern Shadi, with the looks of some classical demi-god, is about the opportunities and intellectual stimulation he finds in Europe.

The father’s studied exteriority, the pandering to cultural norms conceals any hint of an interior, personal life.

Duty it is and yet there is heart and soul in this harsh land.

THE ESSENTIALS

Wajib – The Wedding Invitation (M) 96mins

Starring: Mohammad Bakri, Saleh Bakri, Maria Zriek

Director: Annemarie Jacir

Four Stars

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

In cinemas now