's first feature Habibi
is an earnest if not entirely impressive tale of forbidden love set in Israeli-occupied Palestine. While the film does stir and touch at appropriate moments, the threads of a tried-and-true narrative ultimately fail to come together into something noteworthy. Layla (Abd Elhadi) and Qays (Kais Nashif
) are lovers who, at the opening of the film, have had their student visas revoked, and are thus forced to return to their respective families. Layla, an engineering student, comes from a somewhat well-off family that is attempting to arrange her marriage to a very wealthy doctor. Qays, a gloomy writer and poet, comes from a working-class home and works in construction. As the film progresses, Qays' lovesickness prompts him to steal away to...