A Promising Talent

in 57th Cannes Film Festival

by Blagoja Kunovski

Abu Shukri and his family have settled in a valley far away from their home town. Completely independent, they live on charcoal they produce. Only the father and the son are in contact with the outside world. The father goes to the village to sell the charcoal whereas the son runs off to the village school.

The mother and her two daughters incessantly burn wood. The father decides to build a pipeline to bring fresh water to their rustic home but the running water awakens their instinct of freedom and marks the beginning of the family’s explosive tragic downfall.

-“Thirst” is not only a title but also the atmosphere that surrounds the film, the thirst for water, for food, for freedom, for sex, for eroticism, for love, for desire… Thirst for life.

The film Thirst once again proved that the Critics’ Week in Cannes is the traditional field where real talented “seeds” are planted. This year that talent was the young author, writer-director Tawfik Abu Wael. (born in the Palestinian town of Um El – Fahem in Israel in 1976.) He has written and directed his debut feature with a deep, inner feeling for the life he knows at its most personal identification. As he explains, the real facts of life near his native village inspired him to transform the story into a sort of docufeature drama. And, as everywhere the family for him is the focus. The family in his film is more than that, it is the symbol of the Palestinian people’s struggle for their own state and that will be the ultimate condition, not only for the families but finally for the individuals as part of that state.

Wael knows that his people are handicapped through history struggling for real identification and his film is an effort to anticipate the moment when the Palestinian people can live freely in their own country. But, before that moment comes, the Palestinians, like most of other Moslem /Arab peoples, must solve the problem of the macho-society they live in.

The pater–familias in “Thirst” is not only the symbol of the darkness of life that he constructs for the other members of his family by forcing them to obey him –but incarnates the conservativism based on fanatism and, most of all, on the will and power of the family commander who dictates the rules of life.

That is why Wael builds a strong family drama as a conflict of generations, on one side the tyranical father and on the opposite the son and two daughters. The role of the mother is a kind of go-between, but with the sympathy and support of the children. The father’s intentional plan to bring them to live in the isolated place against their will, awakens the son and daughters’ instincts for freedom. So they make a sort of inter -family revolution and breaking the dark circle of isolation in order to have a real social life with other families and individuals. For, each isolation provokes deformation no matter if it’s personal, family or state life.

To build that family drama Wael and his cinematographer Sudry work with dark colors and close-ups on the worried faces, showing the claustrophobic atmosphere of that surrogate home. Due to this, the best part of the film is the acting of mostly non-professionals who, in fact, play themselves. Visually, the director of photography Sudry creates an impressive claire-obscure atmosphere that corresponds to the life-drama perfectly controlled in the CinemaScope space.

And, of course, all under the control of the director Wael whose sense for dramatic and visual expression proves his talent, promising other powerful films in the future.