One of many pics at the Dubai fest exploring Palestinian identity.

One of many pics at the Dubai fest exploring Palestinian identity, the existential, symbolism-filled drama “Zindeeq” follows an expat intellectual’s long, dark night of the soul as he shoots a documentary in the Occupied Territories about the 1948 expulsions of Arab citizens. Difficult to follow and exhausting to watch because the visual style doesn’t differentiate between the protag’s current reality and what is happening in his head, this pic from Nazareth-born, Brussels-based helmer Michel Khleifi will have its best bet at partisan fests and universities.

Aging filmmaker “M” (Mohammad Bakri, in an odd, expressionist performance) learns that his sister’s son has killed a man in Nazareth. Although she tells him not to come, he sets out, all the while remembering previous journeys and the women who crossed his path, particularly his sensual young assistant (Mira Awad). Nighttime lensing in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Ramallah lends an aura of danger to the labyrinthine alleys of the ancient cities, while blunt editing leaves viewers with the hallucinatory feeling of being trapped in a bad dream. Title’s multiple meanings include “one who doesn’t believe in God” and “one who likes women.”

Zindeeq

Palestinian Territories-U.K.-Belgium-United Arab Emirates

Production

A Euphoric Pictures (Palestinian Territories)/Sindibad (U.K.)/Sourat (Belgium)/Demo Completion Fund (United Arab Emirates) production. (International sales: Sindibad Films, London.) Executive producer, Omar Al-Qattan. Directed, written by Michel Khleifi.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm) Remon Fromont; editor, Marie-Helene Dossaut; music, Jean-Marie Senia. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (competing), Dec. 11, 2009. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Arabic, Hebrew dialogue

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