A rickety car moves through the Palestinian city of Nazareth delivering hundreds of wedding invitations. Over the course of a single day, inside its pressure-cooker-like confines, a father and son are forced to come to terms with one another. Abu Shadi, a teacher, has remained in his hometown his whole life, while his son, Shadi, now lives in Italy where he tries to make a living as an architect. The journey reveals long-held tensions between the two about their relationship with an estranged mother, about Shadi’s decision not to marry (and to not become a doctor), about whether Abu Shadi can invite his Israeli friend to his daughter’s wedding and what it means to stay in a homeland, or to leave it.
Director and writer Annemarie Jacir’s story is a simple and effective container for a vast number of complex emotions, arguments and perspectives. Minimal dialogue, repetition of action and subtlety of form allow the film to examine the different experiences of generations from Palestine, such as the unmet expectations between children and parents, and the deep-rooted, ongoing effects of the Occupation and conflict on those who live in Israel and Palestine, in a fresh way. Wajib reminds us how powerful the fundamentals of storytelling can be, where two dialectics come into contact with one another while trying to achieve a clear goal.
Wajib’s natural, documentary-like style renders Jacir’s directing almost invisible and affords the viewer a special intimacy with these characters without the film feeling manipulated or contrived. But above all, the performances are the real gems in her piece. Mohammed Bakri and his real-life son, Saleh Bakri, are acting royalty in Palestine. Both are titans in their own work and one can imagine a possible danger of having too-much-of-a-good-thing in one, very small car. But both Bakris have created unique, offbeat, subtle characters, unlike their usual casting, and ultimately what shines through is the friction and fierce love between father and son.