Born in Bethlehem, but raised overseas, critically acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir has dedicated her life and art to exploring Palestinian identity. She is responsible for such films as Like Twenty Impossibles (2003), Salt of the Sea (2007), When I Saw You (2012), and most recently, Wajib (2017). Although her films take place at different points throughout history, they each explore the complex relationship of Palestinians to their homeland.
Her latest film, Wajib, tells the story of an Arab-Israeli father and his son, Shadi and Abu Shadi. The film finds Shadi returning from Italy to his birth place of Nazareth for his sister’s wedding. The pair, played by real life father/son duo Mohammad and Saleh Bakri, must carry out the tradition of the “wajib,” that is, hand delivering wedding invitations. By exploring the relationship between an Arab-Israeli father and his son, the film sheds light on the intergenerational experience of living as a Palestinian in Israel, particularly, the ways in which Palestinians in Nazareth are denied the same rights as their Israeli counterparts.
In a poignant interview with website Jadaliyya, Jacir describes this relationship between father and son, the important role the city of Nazareth plays in Wajib, as well as her “project of a lifetime,” a cultural space she is building with her sister in Bethlehem, based in her family’s ancestral home.
When I developed the character of Shadi, I imagined him a normal teenager with a rebellious side. As most teenagers, there came a point where he began to ask questions about the power imbalance and racism he saw around him. In a place where people are silenced for being critical of these kinds of policies, those questions put him in danger and his father decided to send him abroad. Shadi never wanted to leave. I imagined him as a teenager who also felt he could fight injustice and make a change. Someone with rage and also with great hope. He was not involved in political parties but rather he was growing into an awareness and political consciousness, which thus connected him with the rest of the world. This made him a threat to the Israeli state and Abu Shadi, a man who lived through the martial law of 1949-1966 when Israel placed all Palestinian citizens living inside what had become the state of Israel under harsh repression. This is very important to know about him and why his character is the way it is, still recalls daily life during that time of curfews, administrative detentions, and expulsions for Palestinians living inside. He learned that, in order to survive, he had to be compliant, subservient.
Read the full interview here.