A Glimpse of Hope

in 28th Montreal World Film Festival

by Miriam Hollstein

The Middle East is torn apart by an ongoing bloody conflict, it’s a region full of wounds and scars. One of them is the border of the Golan Heights dividing Israel from Syria. The Druze, a peaceful non-muslim Arab minority with about 18,000 members, lives in both countries. Sometimes they meet at the border shouting messages from one side to the other, only separated by a fence and some hundred meters of no man’s land. Some of them even decide to get married. But it is a tragic romance. If they cross the border they won’t get the permission to return.

The Syrian Bride (Hacala Hasurit) by the Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis, which won the price of the FIPRESCI jury and the Ecumenical jury at the 28th World Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, is the heartbreaking story of Mona, a young woman living in a Druze village on Israeli occupied territory. She is about to get married to a famous Druze actor from Syria. While preparing the celebration the family has to face a lot of problems. Mona’s father is a political activist who is not allowed to enter the border area. Mona’s elder sister tries to make an arrangement with an Israeli officer while consoling the sad bride and fighting her own marriage problems. Things don’t get better when Mona’s brother reappears. He wasn’t in contact with his father after committing the ‘crime’ of marrying a Russian. But this is only the beginning. Once the family gathered at the border they have to deal with a new Israeli passport regulation. The Syrian immigrant officer refuses Mona’s entry to the country. Meanwhile her future husband and his family are waiting impatiently on the other side. A young employee of the United Nations tries to negotiate between the Israeli officer and the Syrian counterpart. Mona waits and worries for hours: Is she really going to be married?

The Syrian Bride, a French-German-Israeli coproduction of two million euros (2,45 million dollars) describes the situation with a lot of humour and tenderness for its well-developed characters. Filmed in the Golan Hights with a large Palestinian cast and an Israeli crew the movie tells one of these countless human tragedies behind the political conflict.

Director Eran Riklis doesn’t agree with any of the disputing parties. He shows the absurdity of the conflict and avoids political correctness. Riklis created powerful images of high quality and found impressive actors. Maybe it was Riklis’ Palestinian cowriter Suha Arraf who saved the movie from the propaganda trap and gave a closer look at the structures of patriarchal Arab society. The result is an entertaining and touching drama. If there is hope for healing the wounds of this region, films like The Syrian Bride could help to reach this aim.