Keep out of “Villa Touma”

Keep out of “Villa Touma”

Another inspirational free film screening at the awesome Rainbow Theatre in Amman by the adorable Royal Film Commission of Jordan 😀 Of course by now we know that we’re all about The Serious Stuff so, for a change, don’t expect a comedy!!

“Villa Touma” is a Palestinian film that, as I just found out, has been much talked about. It’s also… a lot of things. As usual, let’s start with the official info, which, as usual, I mostly disagree with 😛

  • Trailer: not representative of the plot at all, makes it look like a completely different thing as it only possibly caters for maybe the first half an hour at most!
  • Trailer description: more accurate already, doesn’t spoil the big dramatic moments, I fairly approve of it though “a torrent of family secrets” is still both an exaggeration and a partial affirmation

Award-winning screenwriter Suha Arraf (The Syrian Bride, Lemon Tree) makes her feature directorial debut with this story of spirited eighteen-year-old orphan Badia, whose arrival at the Ramallah home of her three spinster aunts unleashes a torrent of family secrets and long-held grudges.

  • IMDb summary: technically, one of the sisters had in fact been married for a little while, and “turns their world upside down” only seems to be true for a very small portion of the movie as the sisters’ ways ultimately remain unchanged, but I can’t seriously criticize this summary. It’s certainly closer to reality than those of all other Middle-Eastern movies I’ve watched so far!! But…wait: it says on the page that this is a FRENCH film?!? Howwwwww

Three unmarried aristocratic Christian sisters from Ramallah have shut themselves in their villa clinging desperately to their former glory, until their orphan niece, Badia, walks into their life and turns their world upside down

  • Rotten Tomatoes reports no score yet (guess not many people have seen the movie- yayyy I feel speciaaaal) but links to the review of who’d seem to be a professional critic. Now, this, I really really dig as the guy has clearly  done his research and paid attention to details without forgetting the bigger picture. Well done Mr Jones, and thank you!!

An Arab teenager who’s grown up in an orphanage comes to live with her three unmarried aunts in Ramallah, and as they groom her for marriage their own romantic frustrations combine with their gender-rigid Christianity to create a toxic brew. Suha Arraf, best known as screenwriter of The Lemon Tree (2008) and The Syrian Bride (2004), graduates to writer-director with this excellent Israeli drama (2014). The film’s assured narrative development is buttressed by a control of tone that’s impressive for a neophyte: this is one of those movies whose measured speech and decorous staging can’t conceal the white-hot fury that drives it. An Israeli citizen, Arraf caused an uproar when she entered Villa Touma in the Venice film festival as a Palestinian film and the Israeli government demanded that she return the grant that funded it. “Nobody can tell me who I am,” Arraf replied to one reporter, expressing a sentiment consistent with the movie itself. In Arabic with subtitles.

Now this of course does not explain why IMDb would list the film as coming from France, and on the contrary it adds a level of depth to the complications of its origins. Israel? Palestine? Whose money? Whose identity? Whose rights?

The movie, I learn from two other articles (that judge the film harshly and spoil the plot quite a bit though, so be careful – here and here) ended up being presented at the Venice Film Festival as stateless. Wow… that’s a plot twist I did not expect! More details on such geographical dilemmas in another article that includes an interview to both film director and main character:

[…] The issue of the film’s origin caused controversy not only in Israel, but also in Egypt. The film was set to make its debut at the Alexandria International Film Festival, but according to Zreik, the organisers stated they had not received a copy of the film for screening. “It hurts to see the Arab world deny us because of the film’s ‘Israeli’ origin. Especially when we are 100 percent sure it is Palestinian.” […] We are surrounded by the Arab world, but can hardly go anywhere because of our Israeli passports. And [in Israel] we are Palestinian, so we are not welcome. We’re somewhere in the middle of nothing.

Big stuff, huh? I told you we weren’t in for a comedy, in nor out of the movie 😉 Here’s further technical info on the film and film director, too, if you’re interested. She’s super young and she seemed nice, she was there yesterday at the screening 🙂

So what’s my take on all this?
I’ve only got three little things to say:

  1. SUPER interesting– the film, under every aspect; and this whole political story I just learnt about from my internet readings
  2. the more I watch Palestinian films, the more I want to watch and would recommend watching to everybody, so YES I would recommend this film, I think it’s very good
  3. I’m WELL glad I never lived in the kind of environment here depicted. Wellllll glad, people. I wouldn’t wish it to my worst enemy and will pray tonight and all other nights for all those people that are actually caught in a similar life.

Please let’s open the doors of all physical and metaphorical Villa Toumas in the world…

 

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