LFF Review: Wajib

There are few places in the world where ancient traditions are still so prevalent as Israel. On both sides of the conflict, young people struggle to escape severe religious prescripts of their parents and grandparents and enjoy the same freedoms they see in the Western world. In the shadow of oppression and infringements on personal freedoms, Palestinians try their best to continue with their normal lives. However, what looks like tacit acceptance to the outside is sometimes internal rebellion. In Annemarie Jacir’s new film Wajib she uses the return of a son to bring this struggle to the surface.

With his little sister Amal (Maria Zreik) getting married, Shadi (Saleh Bakri) returns to Nazareth from Italy where he’s living with his partner. In the run-up to the ceremony he joins his divorced father Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri) as he honours tradition and hand-delivers all the wedding invitations. His father is a popular teacher and well-known within the community, follows tradition religiously, whilst Shadi has a much more European sensibility. As they journey around the city, the things that drove him to leave the country start bubbling to the surface.

Wajib is a quietly powerful film about the importance of blood ties and the misunderstandings that can happen between generations, especially in a strict society. Jacir’s script superbly and cleverly opens-up the relationship between father and son whilst the pacing and direction is pitch perfect. Saleh and Mohammad, who have the same relationship in real life, exude a natural chemistry. It’s the clear love and respect between them, despite old quarrels which makes Wajib such a masterful and profound drama.

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