Review: ‘Arafat, My Brother’

As fate would have it, Yasir Arafat's brother Fathi, head of the Palestinian Red Crescent, died in silence three weeks after the controversial PLO president, with whom he had been close since childhood.

As fate would have it, Yasir Arafat’s brother Fathi, head of the Palestinian Red Crescent, died in silence three weeks after the controversial PLO president, with whom he had been close since childhood. Well-known director Rachid Masharawi (“Ticket to Jerusalem”) pieces together a glancing, occasionally intimate portrait of Yasir from an extended interview he did with the indefatigable, likeable but ultimately opaque Fathi Arafat in Cairo, Gaza, and while he was undergoing chemotherapy in Paris. Of some historical interest, this odd doc should find its main takers at Arab fests and among politically minded broadcasters.

Giving focus to this somewhat scattershot biopic is the stern-faced filmmaker’s own anguished search for answers behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of Palestine, which he deludes himself the PLO head can give him. Their eventual meeting in Ramallah, arranged through Fathi, brings about as many answers as Oliver Stone’s abortive attempts to interview Arafat in “Persona Non Grata.” But even without insights into history, pic is full of curious details, like Fathi’s assertion that Yasir wanted to liberate Palestine since he was 6. Their telephone calls reveal a lasting bond between the brothers.

Arafat, My Brother

France - Palestine

Production

A Play Film/Cinema Production Center production in association with Tutti Frutti, NMO, Planete, Images+. (International sales: Play Film, Paris.) Produced by Hind Saih, Rashid Masharawi. Directed by Rashid Masharawi. Screenplay, Danic Champoux.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Masharawi, Laurent Didier; editor, Catherine Zins. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (World Cinema), Jan. 27, 2005. Running time: 80 MIN.
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