6.3/10
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1 user 29 critic

Al-mor wa al rumman (2008)

A free spirited Palestinian dancer becomes the wife of a prisoner.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Kais
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Umm Habib
Walid Abdul Salam ...
Odeh
Ahmad Abu Sal'oum ...
Abu Antar
Valentina Abu-'Aksa ...
Mariam
...
Yosef (as Yosef Abu Wardeh)
Manal Awad ...
Ambar
Wardeh Dukwar ...
Yasmine
...
Zaid
Wardeh Jubran ...
Yasmine
Samia Kuzmoz ...
Umm Zaid
...
Kamar (as Yasmine Massri)
Dorin Munawayyer ...
Rasha
Hussein Nakleh ...
Abu Saji
Lufuf Nuweiser ...
Issa
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Storyline

Ramallah this decade. A free spirited woman dancer, Kamar, finds herself the wife of a prisoner, Zaid, and away from everything she loves until she returns to the dance, defying society's taboos. At the dance Kamar is confronted with Kais, a Palestinian returnee, who has taken Kamar's role as the head choreographer. Sparks fly between Kamar and Kais, creating more than a passionate, emotional dance for the both of them. Matters become even more complicated when Zaid's sentence is extended. At the same time the family's legal case against the land confiscation faces one obstacle after another and the villagers from the nearby villages are unable to reach the family's olive groves, placing the annual harvest and consequently the family's livelihood in danger. And Kamar's life is thrown into turmoil as she becomes increasingly attached to Kais, and caught in the midst of her desire to dance and breaking the family and society taboos of the prisoner's wife's role while life under ... Written by Najwa Najjar

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February 2009 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Granatäpfel und Myrrhe  »

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Beauty that just about steers clear of conventional expectation
29 June 2009 | by See all my reviews

The language of Palestine and Israel (and the latter is always part of the definition of the former) is locked in words. Not just different languages, but labels that classify each world in terms of the other's views, experiences, history, culture. The result is pain. And the very act of screening a Palestinian (or Israeli) film becomes a political act.

Escaping the tyranny of words, of narrow definitions, is one of the freedoms of dance. Especially dance not restricted to national forms. ("In every pomegranate there is one seed that comes from heaven." - old Arab proverb.) Says director Najwa Najjar, "I wanted a Palestinian story. A story different to what the world was used to seeing – simply a story of Palestinians trying to live ordinary lives under extraordinary circumstances, which has been (and continues to be) overlooked."

Zaid (an olive farmer) and Kamar (a dancer) have just got married. We witness the colourful celebrations. Two beautiful, intelligent people. The dialogue (or subtitling) is occasionally a bit clumpy, but on the whole it is a delight to witness the sophisticated festivities of a society with such captivatingly different customs to our own. Not that you or I can holiday there very easily. This is Ramallah. What follows next is largely anticipated – Palestinian cinema tends to focus on dispossession in the face of the Israelis – and is of interest for the degree to which it accomplishes this well and for the variations or new ideas the film additionally introduces. Zaid is soon taken into 'administrative detention' and attempts are made to confiscate their land. Kamar is torn between her duties as a wife and her love of the dance. This latter is complicated by the arrival of Kais, a choreographer returning to Palestine after a lifelong absence when his family were exiled to Lebanon in 1948. Kais has plenty to offer in the way of new steps and is seen by the amateur, traditional choreographer who heads the dance group as a threat to his status.

Pomegranates and Myrrh is the title of the dance performance for which the troupe rehearses. Although not explained, it is maybe interesting to note that pomegranates were eaten by souls in the underworld to bring about rebirth. Hellenic mythographers said both Kore and Eurydice were detained in the underworld because they ate pomegranate seeds there. Myrrh was traditionally an aphrodisiac.

There is a beautiful image of Kamar dancing at night. Her bare feet receive cuts from the hard ground. Ground which could so easily be taken from her.

For those uninterested in Middle East politics but just wanting a backdrop within which to enjoy the film on its own merits, Palestine has been an occupied territory since 1947. The Jews believe it is their promised land and that they have a right to live there, but so do Palestinian Arabs. In 1947, the then Palestine was divided into a Jewish state (which officially became Israel in 1948), and an Arab state that was shared between Egypt (the Gaza strip) and Jordan (the West Bank). Both the Arab territories were reclaimed by Israel in the Seven-day War of 1967 and since then the territories have been continually contested. The weight of history tends to be with the victors. But for anyone unfamiliar with the dynamics it is instructive enough and gives some substance to dry news reports of expansion of Jewish settlements.

Both Palestine and Israel are home to a wide spectrum of political and social beliefs. Many Israelis condemn the expansion of the territories (which is in breach of international law but generally ignored by the West). Many others champion the rights of Jews to live there. Some Palestinians are militarily opposed to infractions, some to the 1967 or 1947 occupations. Some just want a quiet life. Many, like Zaid and Kamar, don't think about it too much until it affects them. Why do we need to mention such things? Partly because the film doesn't manage to avoid or explain them, it merely documents. But since political questions will arise in the mind of the viewer, it is helpful to have a non-judgemental framework so you can squirrel them away and not let such thoughts dominate your enjoyment. The escape from such a politically dominated framework also formed part of Najwa Najjar's quest in making the film.

"The idea for the film started with the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada. Witnessing the daily violence, humiliation, grinding poverty, curfews, movement controls, assassination attempts and the tit for tat suicide bombings . . . I needed to find a way to survive, to find hope in what seemed to be a hopeless situation . . . Yet in this search I was also confronted with barriers in a Palestinian society – those, which can hinder individual development, dreams and aspirations but none as challenging as those which force people to turn to lose themselves when despair, uncertainty and loss prevails."

Watching Palestinian films can be enervating. A fist beating on the wall of hopeless tears. So we have to find the song, the dance of the human spirit within. But there is also the danger that sorrow can burst into even less helpful avenues. "Pomegranates and Myrrh is in some ways a prediction of how a worsening political climate – and the consequent lack of hope, can directly affect the Palestinian daily life – pushing the society to further isolate itself and the individual to regress into conservative traditionalism and religion if there isn't hope, determination . . . a continuation for life." Najjar hopes to transcend the barriers of culture and language: "It is my hope that this story - told through the story of a woman, a love story, a story of dance and music, incorporating the events both internally and externally will evoke similar emotions and feelings in anyone confronting barriers blocking the achievement of his or her ambitions and dreams."


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