The Greater Middle East Exchange (GME) Message Board › Salt of the Sea

Salt of the Sea

user 8929232
Sterling Heights, MI
Post #: 1
Salt of the Earth is a great film. Its greatness lies in its narrative, story line, simplicity, and the superb shots of the biblical landscape. Equally powerful are close up shots of the characters facial expressions which describe powerfully the micro-politics of the Middle East people find themselves in. The film nicely eschewed the usual cinematic clichés we usually expect from movies relating the Palestinian and Israeli conflict which is that there is the usual dichotomy of a victim and an oppressor. The film was more about how people get caught in the daily marginalized lives, through symbolic domination they have to free themselves from, only to get more caught in its treadmill of frustration, questions, and alienation. It is the cinema of social realism in its best. The individual issues are amply projected by the micro-politic naivety of the leading character Soraya, a Brooklyn born Palestinian attractive young woman, in search for a bank account left for her by her father in some bank before the Nakba. The love she encounter with an equally marginalized frustrated young Palestinian man Emad, wanting desperately to immigrate testify that life in the hills of Judean hills surrounding Hebron is as frustrating for him because of corruption of local officials, as it is beautiful by her intense desire to be part of the landscape and to remain one with a place that she had in her imagination, while the young man desperately tries to erase.

I was awe struck by the cinematography of the walled landscape and the beautiful long shots of sunset and rocky fields as if everything is “walled”. Even the main characters are "walled" within themselves because of the "walled" life they lead from which they try desperately to evade. The famed Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni has left us a wealth of cinematic shots describing (even deploring) the old simple (not known) yet fading roman architecture against rampant ugly modern urban architecture that post war Italy experienced, and all this is embedded in some simple love stories between a man and women. Salt of the Sea is “Antonionian” is a way, when we come to the realization of the many once thriving small Arab villages those ruins still dot the landscape, and in which our protagonist couple spend the night and sing songs of happy yesterdays. It is a powerful sense of loss and nostalgia as well as uplifting cultural and ethnic identity.

I greatly appreciated the side stepping from the usual political clichés of the Middle East movies regarding the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, when the protagonists decide to rob a bank as a way to rebel against everything and all. That’s a major departure from the nicely sanitized Arab movie scripts. It is was Hollywoodish but it is certainly a cleaver way to rebel against all systems of alienation whether it is a bank in the West Bank for losing all of her father’s savings or equally daring escape as they illegally enter Israel disguised as Jewish settlers… as if ethnic and religious identities are blurred and remind us that these are only a product of our fixed phobic imagination. The sense of freedom they feel in Jerusalem and Haifa’s (Jaffa) beaches is contradictory yet uplifting. How can someone feel free and love in a country that does not want you in and a country usually associated as the oppressor..… Or is oppression (alienation) found everywhere at the micro-social level, the level of the individuals not that of institutions. The director and writer Annamarie Jacir has made a very thought provoking film. I would go so far to label it a small masterpiece. I think it is a major breakthrough in the modern Arab Middle Easterner cinema.

If it was not for some members of the audience constantly speaking while viewing a movie as if they were in their living rooms, and the few individuals laughing at any minor dark humor script lines (which were not intended to be funny) I can honestly say that seeing this film could have been the best featured Arab film I have seen this year. Well that’s life….
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