FILM REVIEW: Complex politics filter through a family lens in Wajib

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A father and son reconnect in this charming and tightly packed family drama from Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir (Salt Of The Sea, When I saw You).

After a long period in Italy, Shadi returns home to Nazareth to help his father, Abu Shadi, in the traditional custom of hand delivering all the invitations to his sister’s wedding. The politics of family and friendship is the source of much amusement in these various encounters as manners and custom butt heads with what the characters really think. There’s an element of keeping up with the Joneses in Abu Shadi’s small talk that leads to moments of piercing awkwardness but contrasts, rather endearingly, with his reality.

Played by real-life father and son Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri, the leads have an ease and natural chemistry that radiates both warmth and friction. Seemingly trivial quarrels about garbage collection and architecture reveal their characters’ cultural differences which only intensify as they begin to talk about the past. In this way, Jacir’s superb writing filters complex Palestinian politics through the family lens, making it both more human and accessible. With the gaze of an outsider Shadi is openly critical, clashing with his father’s pragmatism and defensiveness. Their climactic argument is transfixing - eye-opening in its passion and balance.

Cultural conflict hangs in the air of Wajib but it is essentially a drama about family, and one whose particular dynamic is extremely relatable. The broad differences between the generations here are universal and the familial nitpicking is so amusing precisely because it is so ordinary and genuine.

In Wajib, Annemarie Jacir mines a rich and deep cultural seam to reveal community, family, hope and love.

Rating: 4/5