Title: Be Quiet
Rating: Five of Five Stars
Subject: A young strong willed son and his father travel home from the west bank in Palestine to their home in Nazareth.
Produced By: Sameh Zoabi
Format: DVD, English, Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
Reviewed by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, Department of Sociology and Human Services, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, http://www.hsu.edu/sociology/.
Running Time: 18 minutes
Directed by: Sameh Zoabi
Audience Level: Jr. High School, High School, College and General Adult.
Cannes Film Festival, Cinefondation Selection 3rd prize, (2005)
Best Narrative Short Film, IFP Market, NYC,
Best Student Short, Aspen Short Festival
Best Arab Short Film, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
Golden Prix, Carthage Film Festival
Bronze Muhr Award, Dubai Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival
Be Quiet should resound with parents. A phrase that is all too common to both children and their parents serves to exemplify a people’s understanding of identity in relation to the “other”. In this film set in Israel and Palestine we find Mahmmood (Mahmud ABU-JAZI) and Ibrahim (Alaa AGHBARIYA) traveling in a Palestinian taxi from the funeral a deceased relative back home to their own home in Nazareth. Regionally this is a challenging drive for Palestinians who are either resident of Israel or of Palestine (West Bank). Mahmmood has left his Israeli registered car on the Israeli side of the border and finds that now a group of Israeli settlers have been shooting at Palestinians. Palestinian police won’t allow the taxi to pass their check point due to its green Palestinian license plate; to do so would invite a sniper’s bullet. When the police realize that Mahmmood’s care bears yellow Israeli plates they allow him and Ibrahim to pass: “They won’t shoot at you, you have a yellow license plate!” But there is more to this issue of identity that emerges from the back to the foreground in this gripping film. We are drawn in by the dialogue between Ibrahim and his father. Ibrahim has been asking questions since the funeral conclusion and their departure from Jenin: “What did Uncle die from?” Mahmmood has not told him that he evidently was killed. Nor are we the viewer given this fact. We only begin to realize the truth, that Uncle was shot and killed when we see his blood on the black and white keffiyeh that Ibrahim has smuggled in his back pack. It is at that point we realize that there is more to Uncle’s death than mere illness. We see in Ibrahim his resounding and resolute inquiry into the identity of what it is to be Palestinian. “But we are Palestinian” he responds to his father when the Mahmmood explains why some cars have yellow plates and some have green. It is in Ibrahim that we see a determined personality, one which rejects being generally classified by another as “something” other than acceptable. He also questions and rejects his father’s complacency in accepting the rigors of life imposed upon him by the Israeli authority.
The film is more than entertaining or political; it is an examination of what is otherwise often called the generation gap. It is the question of what is right and what is wrong about the past that each generation must determine as it comes to age and more so, what the current generation soon to be the past, must re-evaluate as it contemplates its own status quo and its future.
It is with hopes that the director Zoabi continues this short film project and allows it to evolve into a full length feature film. As a viewer seeking personal enjoyment I am fulfilled. As a professor of sociology interested in human rights I found the questions and potential turning points posed in this film intriguing. As a traveler to Israel and Palestine as well as other parts of the regional setting I find the film believable and realistic. Zoabi will not disappoint you, but will leave you desiring more. Mahmud ABU-JAZI delivers a stunning portrayal of a dismayed parent who wishes the best for his child yet is perplexed by his son’s strong will to find out who he is both individually and socially. He fears for his son’s future, but as reflected in his smiles and comments he sees a hope for a better life through his son’s future. Alaa AGHBARIYA is convincing, serious and realistic as a young actor. No doubt in my mind, you will enjoy this starkly realistic film.
Tags: Activism, Social Relations, Politics, National Identity, Israel/Palestine, Human Rights, Generational Understandings of Identity