The Naive Drama of West Bank Story Salt of This Sea


Soraya (Suheir Hammad), a beautiful young Brooklyn-born Palestinian, is met with stonewalling and blunt hostility when she arrives in Israel to throw down a gauntlet and reclaim the house and money her grandfather lost when he was forced out in 1948. Stranded without money in Ramallah after her visa expires, she joins forces with a handsome cab driver (played by Saleh Bakri, last seen romancing an airport sales agent with vintage Chet Baker in The Band’s Visit) and an easygoing filmmaker (Riyad Ideis) in a bank heist whose proceeds will carry them on a nostalgic road trip through the land they see as theirs. Annemarie Jacir, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, directs with flair and loving attention to the wild, damaged beauty of the contested landscape. But Soraya’s rebellious bursts of rage come off more like the tantrums of a spoiled princess than the legitimate anger of an emerging activist. Salt of This Sea is a sexy, good-looking, intelligently paced drama, but, politically, it is a loaded dice that—pausing to stomp with close to equal contempt on the Israeli peace movement and (as Jacir sees it) the passive fatalism of the Palestinian old guard—moves inexorably backward to perpetual victimhood.

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