×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Reports on Sarah and Saleem’

The extra-marital affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman has political consequences in this taut psychosocial drama.

Director:
Muayad Alayan
With:
Adeeb Safadi, Sivane Kretchner, Ishai Golan, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Hanan Al Hillo, Mohammad Eid, Rebecca Telhami, Kamel El Basha, Jan Kühne, Raya Zoabi, Ronnie Barkan, Samia Hussein, Arwa Alkhamour, Mahmoud Halaika, Abeer Salman, George Khleifi, Riyad Sliman, Amer Khalil, Laila Al Azza. (Arabic, Hebrew, English dialogue)

2 hours 11 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7158582/reference

A simple affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, springing from a need to let off some steam, becomes twisted by security services on both sides in Muayad Alayan’s engrossing, slightly overextended sophomore feature “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem.” Marking a leap forward in every department from his modest debut “Love, Theft and Other Entanglements” (co-written by his brother, Rami, who gets sole writing credit on this one), this frequently taut psychosocial drama with political thriller elements deftly conveys the tensions, both physical and mental, between West and East Jerusalem, showing how societal forces prevent any form of normalized relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Winner of Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund Audience Award, “Reports” is well-placed for potentially strong worldwide play.

While the filmmakers proudly tout the fact that this is the first Palestinian-Mexican co-production (alongside the Netherlands and Germany), what’s even more significant is the presence of quite a few Israeli actors in a Palestinian film with zero Israeli funds attached. Benefiting from a wide array of European and Arab film funds — Hubert Bals, World Cinema Fund, AFAC, et al. — the film should do well in international markets, though the large number of Israeli thesps will make this an interesting test case once MAD Solutions rolls out its Arab distribution.

A sharply edited mix of flashbacks and -forwards grabs audience attention before settling down to fill things in: Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) is a café owner in Jerusalem frustrated that once again she’s going to have to close her business and move, with her Israeli army colonel husband David (Ishai Golan) and their young daughter, since his promotion means relocation. Saleem (Adeeb Safadi) lives in East Jerusalem but works in the West delivering baked goods to places like Sarah’s café. The pay is small and he’s not making ends meet, causing significant worry, considering his wife, Bisan (Maisa Abd Elhadi), is pregnant and he’s feeling emasculated living alongside her family. Hot sex in the back of his delivery van helps both Sarah and Saleem escape from the pressures of life.

Saleem’s brother-in-law Mahmoud (Mohammad Eid) gets him a night job running goods unavailable in the occupied territories to Bethlehem; one night he suggests Sarah join him — she can pretend to be European, and it’s just a brief postponement of their evening romp. At a bar, her Hebrew name-pendant slips out and a suspicious local challenges her. The next day Saleem’s arrested by the Palestinian security authority, accused of smuggling Israeli prostitutes into the West Bank. Lawyer Abu Ibrahim (Kamel El Basha) can get him off only if he signs a document stating that Sarah’s not a whore but a well-connected Israeli he’s recruiting as a spy.

It should be something only the Palestinian security forces know, but a raid in Bethlehem by the Israeli army nets a bunch of documents, including the one Saleem signed. That rings major alarm bells with army investigator Avi (Jan Kühne), who connects Saleem to Sarah’s café, and informs David there might be trouble. Things spiral out of control as Saleem is arrested by the Israelis, refusing to implicate Sarah.

Rami Alayan’s script tries to keep a few too many characters in play, and the last quarter sees Bisan (and others) behaving in not entirely believable ways. That’s a great pity, since Abd Elhadi is one of the region’s best actresses, with terrific screen presence, and she’s not always well used. If at times it feels like the Alayan brothers have bitten off more than they can chew, the core of the plot, and the weighty issues raised, fortunately remain front and center. Sarah and Saleem’s affair was always lopsided, since her Israeli middle-class privilege puts her in a position of power that he as a Palestinian can’t hope to approach. Her co-worker, Ronit (Rebecca Telhami), doesn’t care that Sarah is cheating on David, but she is bothered that the guy is an Arab: Regardless of whether they’re in the same city, co-existence without real and psychological barriers is a myth.

“Reports” does a fine job underlining this physical division within Jerusalem, where the East (let alone the occupied territories) is largely a no-go zone for Israelis, apart from settlers looking to displace the Palestinian population. Especially well observed is Sarah’s nervousness as Saleem takes her at night to Bethlehem, just a half hour away yet on another planet as far as she’s concerned. Saleem is made to feel unwelcome in Israel; Sarah’s not wanted in Palestine: Their desire for each other’s body, a simple urge whose consequence should only have been the betrayal of their marriage vows, turns into the betrayal of two nations for those around them.

Film Review: 'The Reports on Sarah and Saleem'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Tiger Competition), Jan. 28, 2018. Original title: Al-Taqareer Hawl Sarah wa Saleem. Running time: 131 MIN.

Production: (Palestine-Netherlands-Germany-Mexico) A PalCine Prods., KeyFilm, Monofilms, Manderley Films production. (International sales: Heretic Outreach, Athens.) Producers: Muayad Alayan, Rami Alayan. Executive producer: Hanna Atallah. Co-producers: Hanneke Niens, Hans de Wolf, Rebekka Garrido, Rodrigo Iturralde, Georgina Gonzalez, Alejandro Durán, Amal Alayan.

Crew: Director: Muayad Alayan. Screenplay: Rami Alayan. Camera (color, widescreen): Sebastian Bock. Editor: Sameer Qumsiyeh. Music: Charlie Rishmawi, Tarik Abu Salameh, Frank Gelat.

With: Adeeb Safadi, Sivane Kretchner, Ishai Golan, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Hanan Al Hillo, Mohammad Eid, Rebecca Telhami, Kamel El Basha, Jan Kühne, Raya Zoabi, Ronnie Barkan, Samia Hussein, Arwa Alkhamour, Mahmoud Halaika, Abeer Salman, George Khleifi, Riyad Sliman, Amer Khalil, Laila Al Azza. (Arabic, Hebrew, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Of Fathers and Sons

    Producer of Oscar-Nommed Syria Documentary Could Miss Awards Due to Visa Problem

    A German producer’s hopes to attend Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, where his film is up for an Oscar, look likely to be dashed by tightened U.S. Department of Homeland Security restrictions and increased bureaucracy. Hans Robert Eisenhauer is one of the producers of “Of Fathers and Sons,” director Talal Derki’s film about a radical Islamist [...]

  • Speaker of the United States House

    Nancy Pelosi, Ava DuVernay Honored at VH1 Trailblazers Event

    Cher is feeling a little better about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. “When I see Trump spew his hate and tell his gazillion lies, I get pissed off and feel uneasy at the same time,” the Oscar winner and frequent Trump critic said Wednesday while introducing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at VH1 Trailblazers [...]

  • Most Memorable Oscar Speeches in Academy

    The Most Memorable Oscar Speeches in Academy History

    No Academy Awards is complete without some emotional acceptance speeches on stage – and some political ones to boot. With just 90 seconds to make an impact, many actors have used the platform as a voice for political change, calling attention to hot-button issues like climate change and gender equality, while others have simply reveled [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Arrested, in Custody of Chicago Police

    Jussie Smollett has been arrested and faces criminal charges for allegedly filing a false police report and for disorderly conduct. Chicago police tweeted Thursday morning that the “Empire” actor was under arrest and in custody of detectives. Smollett claimed that he had been attacked by two men on Jan. 29 — he said they beat [...]

  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959, born Eleanora Fagan)

    Billie Holiday Documentary Draws Buyers as Concord Boards Project

    Concord, the successor to the Billie Holiday Estate, has boarded James Erskine’s documentary “Billie,” which tracks the iconic jazz singer’s life. Altitude Film Sales has sold the project to several territories. Also joining the project, now in post-production, is the Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral. Most of the filmed and still images that exist of [...]

  • My Extraordinary Summer With Tess review

    Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess'

    Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content