It has been a theme, throughout history, that the oppressed often look for champions whom they can rally around. Fairly normal people can be elevated into god-like figures as long as it serves the wider cause. We’ve seen a resurgence of martyrdom across the Middle-East, but this doesn’t always end in death. The imprisonment and torture of suspected terrorists in Abu Ghraib was the spark which created daesh. The Israeli government’s policy to inter Palestinians at the drop of the hat threatens to have a similar effect. Bassam Jarbawi feature debut, Screwdriver (Mafak), focuses on a man struggling to re-build his life after incarceration.
After his best friend Ramzi (Adham Abu Aqel) is killed by an Israeli sniper’s bullet, Zaid (Amir Khoury) and a couple of teenage friends drive around the streets letting off steam. When Octopus (Munther Bannourah) shoots a man, they flee, but Zaid is caught and spends the next decade in prison. When he’s released, he can’t come to terms with the outside world. His friends have moved on yet his life seems to be over already. He lives with his mother (Areen Omari) and sister (Mariam Basha) who are unaware of his suffering It’s only when a reporter (Yasmine Qaddumi) contacts him that he begins to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Screwdriver is a powerful film about living under the constant pall of oppression and the effect a fairly indiscriminate unethical policy can have on those who have to face it every day. It’s a powerful drama with Khoury embodying a man unable to deal with his trauma, resigned to failure and mourning a life he never had. There are no simple answers here and Jarbawi doesn’t shrink away from the complexities. The message behind Screwdriver is clear and it’s carried through with conviction and compassion.
Screwdriver screens at Human Rights Watch Film Festival on 15 & 16 March.