Sand Storm / Sufat Chol is an Arabic language film about a Bedouin family in Southern Israel that is mired in a series of metaphoric storms. Outside of living in a largely oppressive town, a family of many women are faced with a dire situation that could completely destroy the status quo.
The story revolves around a teenage student Layla, her mother, and her father. Layla also has many female siblings living in a tiny house. Crisis strikes when the father Suliman brings home his second wife, and on the day of wedding celebrations, Layla’s mother Jalila accidentally discovers that Layla has a boyfriend who she hopes to marry. The welcoming party to the new bride arranged by Jalila was already taking a toll on her relationship with Suliman. But the news of her daughter’s affair spirals into a series of unfortunate events.
Torn by the patriarchal norms that govern the land, and a superficially progressive father who allows his daughter to drive and do away with the head scarf, Sand Storm is a story of quintessential contradictions. While the father approves of many wishes his daughters ask of him, marrying outside of caste is one thing he couldn’t permit; for he is but a puppet whose strings are held by the Holy Book. This brings Layla and her mother closer as she realizes that her mother was on her team all along. While they join hands in tackling the patriarchy monster in vain, their frustration seems vicarious.
Every single one of their actions garner an instantaneous exasperation only for a wave of empathy to come sweeping in, a polarization that is such a rarity in films. The beauty of the film lies in the fact that it is seen through the eyes of all characters. Layla’s little sister for example, who is preparing herself for a similar fate as her mother and her sister is an ominous directorial genius. As she peeks through the window of a bedroom of her future, she understands the sacrifice her family had to make in order for her to have a slightly better future. While on the face of it, though the men appear powerful, they are weak and bound by customs. Jalila and Layla on the other hand, show resilience under such harsh impositions even if a tiny amount of dignity is all they fight for.