Last night I went to the closing night of Palestinian Film Week, for the film “Salt of This Sea.” How do I describe this experience? The venue was amazing – beautiful theater – but it was more than that. When the film began a whole group of guys sitting behind me started singing along and clapping to the opening song which got the rest of the audience into it and we were all clapping. That’s what I realized this isn’t just a bunch of people watching a movie, it’s like all these people in one place connected by this bond and shared experience and they’re all there to experience this depiction of the suffering together. That doesn’t even make sense and it’s probably corny or a cliche but it really felt like that – like they are Palestinian and they are there to watch a Palestinian film about Palestine because somehow they all love Palestine, or being Palestinian, or whatever.
It’s hard to explain the actual film – the basic plot is a Palestinian American from Brooklyn who goes to Ramallah (even though her family is from Yaffa) to find her grandfather’s money which is her inheritance and to take her “right of return.” She goes from Ramallah into Israel (illegally) and the film follows her personal journey until she gets deported back to the States for overstaying her visa. Of course, the Israeli army is painted as the unjust villain, and the only portrayals of Israeli civilians are as settlers, Zionists, or pacifists. Aside from the fact that I thought the main character was a little bit crazy, I found it to be a really hard movie to watch. Who do I empathize with? Both sides? Neither? What about people here, is that a usual Palestinian sentiment? Why do I always feel guilty when I see things like this? Am I perceived as one of these stereotypes? It’s such a complicated experience being so close to everything, in the middle of it all. I mean obviously I am not Israeli, but trying to stay connected to my religion and disconnected from Israel is hard. I have mixed feelings and it’s hard to completely validate both sides at the same time.
But confusion and angst aside, it was a pretty good movie, even though the main character was way too skinny and not even that pretty. Although stereotypes abounded, it seemed like a fairly realistic portrayal of the circumstance and touched on a variety of political and social issues. Definitely recommended if you get the chance.