×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice Film Review: ‘Screwdriver’

Bassam Jarbawi’s slickly made debut explores the physical and emotional toll felt by a Palestinian prisoner released after 15 years in an Israeli jail.

Director:
Bassam Jarbawi
With:
Ziad Bakri, Areen Omari, Jameel Khoury, Yasmine Qaddumi

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4183200/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_2

Debuting director-writer Bassam Jarbawi has a great theme with “Screwdriver” and a slick filmmaking style, though at times the surface gets more attention than what’s underneath. Set in the semipermanent Al-Amari Refugee Camp on the Ramallah outskirts, the film tackles the difficulties a man faces in returning to normal life after 15 years in an Israeli prison, exploring the physical and emotional toll that trauma and lost time extract from his damaged psyche. Side characters are unevenly drawn but the more complex lead role, nicely played by Ziad Bakri (“Personal Affairs”), gives it a genuine, affecting core. “Screwdriver” is likely to get a fair amount of rotation on the festival circuit.

Jarbawi’s time at Columbia University’s film school shows with his choice of American DP David McFarland (“The Ballad of Lefty Brown”) and co-editor Christopher Radcliff, together with his tendency toward quickly played-out scenes that are invariably polished yet occasionally lack the kind of emotional grit called for by the subject matter. As 18-year-olds, Ziad (Amir Khoury) and Ramzi (Adham Abu Aqel) are best friends and champs on the basketball court, with a full life ahead of them until Ramzi gets struck by a sniper’s bullet. Grief-stricken, Ziad and a couple of buddies drive around at night venting, until Octopus (Munther Bannourah) spies a guy he thinks is an Israeli settler on the side of the road and suggests they give him a scare. Ziad doubles back, Octopus pulls a gun, and the man on the road appears to be dead. Cops give chase and the boys split; only Ziad is caught.

Fast forward to 2017, and Ziad (Bakri) is released to a minor celebrity homecoming, feted by family and friends for doing time in an Israeli jail. Filmmaker Mina (Yasmine Qaddumi, also producing) wants to interview him for a documentary she’s doing on “Palestinian personalities” (a rather amorphous topic), and although she’s friendly and nonthreatening, Ziad can’t cope with the attention. In fact, he’s not coping in general, plagued by insomnia, headaches and urinary difficulties.

“Screwdriver” is at its best when focusing on Ziad’s problems integrating back into the life of the community. He has difficulty working a cell phone, is intimidated by everyday tasks, and finds it extremely tough knowing how to behave in social situations, which is why he’s isolated himself in a rooftop hovel. Neither his mother (Areen Omari, “Eyes of a Thief”) nor his sister Nawal (Mariam Basha) has a clue what he’s going through, though the latter is pushing hard to hook him up with her rather too-forward friend Salma (Maya Omaia Keesh). Octopus (Jameel Khoury) gives him a job with his construction company, but the freedom of life on the outside is more than he can handle, and Ziad’s not getting any help acclimatizing.

According to the movie, one-fifth of all Palestinians have at one time been detained, so Ziad should get some understanding from friends and loved ones, yet the script is largely invested in solely showing the protagonist’s complete disconnect. Apart from Ziad, characters demonstrate little modulation, starting with the over-the-top Israeli interrogator (Amira Habash) and continuing through to Nawal and Salma, both poorly drawn. Scenes between graffiti artist Sanad (Sanad Amina) and Ziad are meant to provide a counterpoint of misfit solidarity, but the editing cuts too soon and doesn’t let such moments breathe, plus the ambiguous tension-filled ending adds nothing to the more powerful arguments Jarbawi raises.

Venice Film Review: 'Screwdriver'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 5, 2018 (also in Toronto – Discovery). Running time: 107 MIN. (Original title: “Mafak”)

Production: (Palestine-USA-Qatar) A Rimsh Film, Dialectic prod. (Int'l. sales: Dialectic, New York.) Producers: Shrihari Sathe, Yasmine Qaddumi, Bassam Jarbawi. Executive producer: Nabil Qaddumi.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Bassam Jarbawi. Camera (color, widescreen): David McFarland. Editors: Jarbawi, Christopher Radcliff. Music: Jon Natchez.

With: Ziad Bakri, Areen Omari, Jameel Khoury, Yasmine QaddumiMariam Basha, Amir Khoury, Wassim Mousa, Mohammad Adawi, Huthayfa Jalamna, Adham Abu Aqel, Munther Bannourah, Abedalrahman Zubaidi, Ibrahim Jawhari, Israa Darawsha, Nidal Taha, Bassam Jarbawi, Imad Mizro, Amira Habash, Faleh Faleh, Maya Omaia Keesh, Ahmad Jubeh, Sanad Amina, Doraid Liddawi. (Arabic, Hebrew dialogue)

More Film

  • The Wolf Hour

    Shanghai Film Review: 'The Wolf Hour'

    Run a finger along any of the surfaces in Alistair Banks Griffin’s sophomore feature “The Wolf Hour,” and it will come up slicked with sweat, grime and the residual soot of the city. It is the summer of 1977,  and it’s hotter than hell. June Leigh (Naomi Watts) perches on the window sill of the [...]

  • The Christmas Gift

    'The Christmas Gift,' 'Guaxuma,' 'King Wah' Win Top Awards at Palm Springs ShortFest

    The Palm Springs International ShortFest wrapped Sunday with top prizes going to “The Christmas Gift,” directed by Bogdan Muresanu, for best of the festival, Nara Normande’s “Guaxuma” for best international short and Horatio Baltz’s “King Wah (I Think I Love You)” for best North American short. The festival is the largest shorts-focused event in North [...]

  • Vortex

    Shanghai Film Review: 'Vortex'

    Official statistics imply that violent crime is close to an all-time low across China today, but you would hardly guess as much from the glut of commercial-leaning crime and gangster movies that the Middle Kingdom is producing and, as often as not, given the accessibility of the genre and the historical pedigree of Asian action [...]

  • Box Office: Toy Story 4 Opens

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Launches Overseas With $120 Million, 'Aladdin' Clears $800 Million

    Disney’s summer box office slate continues to dominate over other studios as “Toy Story 4” launches overseas with a solid $120 million and “Aladdin” crosses $800 million in ticket sales. Disney and Pixar’s latest “Toy Story” entry led international box office charts when it debuted in 37 foreign territories. It also dwarfed the competition in [...]

  • Toy Story 4 Box Office: Pixar

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Dominates With $118 Million Debut

    Disney’s domination over the box office only seemed to strengthen this weekend as “Toy Story 4” easily topped box office charts. The fourth entry in Pixar’s animated series collected $118 million in ticket sales when it debuted in 4,575 North American theaters. While that haul is significantly below expectations – early estimates initially anticipated a [...]

  • Shanghai international Film Festival closing ceremony

    Iran's 'Castle of Dreams' Sweeps Shanghai Golden Goblet Award Ceremony

    China’s top film festival showered its highest three honors on the Iranian film “Castle of Dreams,” hours after American President Donald Trump said the U.S. would on Monday impose “major additional sanctions” on Tehran. The drama about family, separation and keeping one’s promises, collected a trio of prizes on Sunday night at the Shanghai International [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content