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Abu Laila used to be a judge, but because the government doesn't have the means to renew his assignment he is forced to be a taxi driver. On the day his daughter Laila becomes seven years old his wife insists that he'll be at home early and bring her a present and a cake. Abu Laila's has nothing else on his mind then completing this mission. But the daily life in Palestine has other plans. Written by
With a running time of just sixty-nine minutes, "Laila's Birthday" chronicles a day in the life of a Palestinian cab driver (a day that also happens to be his daughter's seventh birthday). Abu Laila is actually a former judge who, due to budget cuts, is now forced to drive a taxi, owned by his brother-in-law, to support his wife and child. The "plot" of the movie consists of little more than a series of deliberately undramatic and wryly humorous vignettes revolving around Abu and the cross section of humanity that passes through his cab that day. His passengers include a just-paroled ex-con, an amorous young couple looking for a place to be alone, a woman on her way to the cemetery and the hospital, and another woman whose husband has just been killed in a car bombing.
As conceived by writer/director Rashid Masharawi and embodied by the finely stoic and deadpan actor, Mohammed Bakri, Abu is remarkably reticent for a central character - one who rarely articulates his thoughts about the people and events taking place around him. Yet, one senses in the man an undercurrent of frustration arising from having to live in an occupied territory the West Bank city of Ramallah a frustration that Abu finally gives vent to in the closing moments of the story. Otherwise, the movie doesn't push its political points and doesn't go for grand dramatic gestures and themes. It merely observes daily life as this one man witnesses it, finding humor in some of the unlikeliest of places.
Despite the lack of drama in the situations themselves, there's something strangely hypnotic in Abu's continual cruising through the city and around the countryside, and in his interactions with the various people who come his way.
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