Milh Hadha Al-Bahr



Cannes, Un Certain Regard

CANNES -- Boldly grabbing hold of the central issue at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict -- namely, whose land it is that is being contended by both sides -- “Salt of This Sea” will certainly make people talk, even while it fails to fully involve them in its artificial drama.

Making her first feature film, Palestinian Annemarie Jacir shows she is a courageous director able to articulate Palestinian pain and longing to return to the land of their ancestors. But the drama of a Brooklyn-born waitress who naively travels to Ramallah and Israeli-occupied Jaffa to live in “her homeland” is depressingly one-note, a story that never springs to life.

Arriving at Tel Aviv airport, the American Soraya (a fascinatingly stubborn Suheir Hammad) is hassled by the authorities for her Arab name. But bare minutes later, she has reached Ramallah, then finds an apartment and a good-looking escort Emad (Saleh Bakri, son of famed actor Mohammed Bakri).

Since they won’t give her back her grandfather’s savings, lost in 1948 when the family was forced into Lebanon, she simply robs a bank with Emad and pal Marwan (Riyad Ideis). Then everybody slips through a checkpoint back into Israel, without passports, disguised as Jews.

Viewers still with the film at this point can savor the shock of the film’s crucial scene, when Suheir is hosted by the current renter of her family home in Jaffa, a disarmingly liberal Israeli girl. “We had lives here. We were robbed,” Suheir tells the girl, who naturally has no reply.

Cast: Suheir Hammad, Saleh Bakri, Riyad Ideis. Director: Annemarie Jacir. Screenwriters: Annemarie Jacir. Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin. Director of photography: Benoit Chamaillard. Production designer: Francoise Joset. Music: Kamran Rastegar. Sound: Eric Vaucher, Peter Flamman. Editor: Michele Hubinon
Sales Agent: Pyramide International, Paris
No MPAA rating. 109 minutes.