November 25, 2012 By Varun Aditya

A Celebration of Palestinian Discontent

movieMichel Khleifi‘s Wedding in Galeeli tells the harrowing tale of Israeli occupation in Palestine in the context of a wedding.

Those who find their land fast vanishing try  to give it an outlet in whatever ways possible. Culture is, definitely, such an outlet where through the diminishing geography is reborn in the form of symbols. But those symbols may not be transient, contained well within the references they have about themselves. Or, rather, they may not be forms of art for the sake of art. Those symbols will brilliantly carry strong political voices, which give credence to the symbols in such a way that they take on the role of an alternative to radical alternative politics.

Michel Khleifi, who is settled in Brussels, is a Palestinian film-maker. A Teacher at the Institute National Superirur  des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS), where he has graduated in film making, Kheiff has known the mental pangs of being an exile. It’s film which has become a medium for him to express his resentment tinged with nostalgia. After his two unsuccessful ventures, Kheiff went on to make his celebrated ‘Wedding in Galeeli’, which poignantly portrays the sufferings of his people. The film was a huge success among the critics and bagged the coveted International Critics’ Price at Cannes. However, the success of the film does not lie in its accolades but in the brilliant and daring   presentation of a people who have no land of their own in a way unheard of in the history of cinema.

Wedding at Galeeli tells the story of Mukhthar, an elder and ruler of a Palestinian village which is under the dominion of Israel. Mukhthar want to conduct the wedding of his son in the traditional manner. But the village is under the curfew imposed by the Israeli Administration, whose license is a must for the ceremony. Mukhthar approaches a vengeful Israeli Military officer, who does not agree to hand a license. But he hatches a drama and says that if Israeli Military officers, including him, are invited to the wedding and the officer is made the guest of honor, he would issue the licence. Mukhthar agrees.

Mukthar’s son feels irritated by his dad’s pliant, clubby stance towards  Israel, a country which dominates his motherland. He as well as his friends sees that the pathetic state of their homeland is caused by the conservative traditional values which Mukthar represents. It’s the termination of those values that will redeem their hopes for an independent nation. The shadow war between tradition and the new generation has been narrated in the story in another example. Mukthar’s daughter participates in the wedding wearing jeans. It’s an anomaly to the whole cermony which is being held in the traditional manner. The irony is that where as the elders hold the young generation accountable for bringing misfortune to their homeland through their flauting traditional values, the young ones sees that it’s tradition that is their undoing. So, the decision of the bridegroom and his friends to kill the Israeli officers, despite the advice of his father, adds to the already built-up tension.

Michel Khleifi’s treatment of the subject is admirable as he does all he can to bring to fore the internal dilemma of a community despite the political odds from the external enemies. But among bouquets there are some brickbats against Khleifi, too. The reviewer of New York Times finds Khlieif’s treatment of Israeli militia a bit jarring. He writes: ‘His film is lyrical and extravagantly detailed when portraying the Palestinians. But because Mr. Khleifi turns simplistic and leaden whenever he points his camera at an Israeli, always viewed as the one-dimensional enemy, his often dazzling first feature is diminished by his insistently narrow vision.’

But, this concern about what they call the negative portrayal of Israel is is one-dimensional in a broader perspective. It is enough for them to see how the camera of Hollywood moves on the figure of a Muslim.

Varun Aditya is a documentary film-maker based in Bangalore

Posted in: Movies