Run, Rana, run
A young woman's urgent, daylong rush to get married by 4 o'clock is made more desperate by both real and figurative roadblocks in the outstanding "Rana's Wedding," a fast-paced personal odyssey through Palestinian life today.
By JOSHUA TANZER
(Originally reviewed at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June 2003.)
"My Big Fat Palestinian Wedding" this is not.
Rana, an attractive and headstrong 17-year-old living in her family's Jerusalem home while her father earns a living in Egypt, wakes up one November morning knowing one thing: She must get married today.
If she doesn't, she has a problem, and that problem is a single folded-up sheet of paper.|
"You're too young to get married," says the letter from her father. "But if you do, choose a groom from this list."
But Rana has her own groom in mind however scandalously inadequate he is, compared to the doctors and lawyers on the list. Khalil is a mere theater director and there's one more problem with him, as she discovers after sneaking out early in the morning past her sleeping father, who intends return to Egypt this afternoon with her in tow. He's vanished.
Thus begins Rana's odyssey through Palestinian life, finding Khalil in Ramallah, lining up an official registrar, finding out where dad went back in Jerusalem, getting a marriage license, getting grandmother's blessing, assembling the family, finding the registrar all over again, and fighting off the urge to simply have a nervous breakdown.
Along the way, they run into constant impediments an overeager army battalion, a young man's funeral, an Israeli house demolition, slow-moving lines, and ever-present roadblocks. At one army checkpoint, Rana runs right into a stone-throwing, bullet-firing standoff between West Bank youths and Israeli soldiers. She stands impatiently on one side of the road and waits for the firefight to end as if waiting for a "don't walk" sign to change. In New York you wait for the taxi cabs to pass; in the West Bank you wait for the bullets to clear.
The really elegant thing about "Rana's Wedding" is how thoroughly the personal is infused with the political. Superficially, it's just a story about a young woman in love, in whose path to the altar fate keeps throwing roadblocks. But literally, the roadblocks are roadblocks. The frustrations of occupation that are a routine part of ordinary life for a law-abiding Palestinian on the way to work or to visit relatives become all the more desperate as each one pushes Rana critical minutes closer to her 4:00 deadline.|
With two exceptions, the politics of the situation are merely understood. It's not necessary for Rana to explicitly speak out about any of this she stops only twice, briefly, on her dogged trek back and forth across the security zone to acknowledge her feelings after confronting harsh realities. Mostly she just keeps moving. This turns the movie from one about hopelessness and anger to one focused on the ultimate act of hope, and love. If Rana and Khalil can defy the odds against their union, maybe that's a way of defying the odds against peace and justice too.
Whether they will succeed or fail awaits the end of the film, a final scene that packs a huge impact. Simple but surprising, intensely personal and yet symbolic of the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the film is as eloquent a statement as can be made on war, peace and humanity in Israel. It's very much worth seeing on both sides of the divide.
As a footnote to "Rana's Wedding," director Hany Abu-Assad has another very worthwhile film in this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival, called "Ford Transit." It's a documentary about the ubiquitous "Fords" rickety Ford vans that shuttle commuters back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Fords form a backdrop to "Rana's Wedding" as well, and it's worth seeing both films together.
|JUNE 13, 2003|
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