Truth strangely upstaged fiction with Palestinian filmmaker AnneMarie Jacir’s, Salt Of This Sea (Milh Hadha al-Bahr). A dramatic feature filmed in the West Bank and Israel, and expressing Palestinian rage linked to physical and emotional foreign and internal exile alike, the movie subsequently led to the writer/director’s refusal of reentry herself by Israeli authorities, and she is now confined to living in Jordan.
Salt Of This Sea follows the traumatic and touching journey of Soraya (Palestinian born American actress Suheir Hammad), a Brooklyn woman determined to return to her apparently obliterated ancestral roots in Ramallah. But to defiantly claim as well, her own nonexistent right to the ‘law of return’ extended and exclusively limited to all Jews around the world wishing to resettle in Israel. But a rude awakening instantly materializes upon her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. Interrogated, harassed and strip searched by the Israeli authorities as if a suspected terrorist, Soraya’s rebellious mission soon transforms into more daring impulses.
Teaming up politically and romantically with equally enraged West Bank waiter Emad (Saleh Bakri), who is prevented by Israel from traveling to Canada to study at a university there – ‘where I don’t have to see another solider again’ – the pair set out on a dangerous adventure, robbing a bank with Soraya clad in a burka, and heading for the Jaffa beaches impersonating tourists – a visit to the sea that has been forbidden to Emad as a Palestinian for the past seventeen years. Also on the subversive and liberating itinerary are heartbreaking sojourns to their respective ancestral homes, one now thoughtlessly occupied by an Israeli family, and the other abandoned and in utter ruin, ever since the Dawayima massacres of Palestinians there decades ago.
Salt Of This Sea seamlessly blends the profoundly personal psychological devastation of internal exile, with the existing greater social and political repression as defined by second class citizenship in Palestine. And on a solemn side note, the early Jewish immigration period footage opening the film, as Palestinian homes are leveled and the frightened inhabitants flee into the sea, is actually salvaged remnants from systematically destroyed vintage archives, in order to rewrite history.
4 [out of 4] stars