Haifa | Chicago Reader

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Except for the opening scene, when two Palestinian youths are seen fleeing Israeli soldiers, writer-director Rashid Masharawi refrains from dramatizing the usual adversarial encounters in this captivatingly elegiac 1996 film. At the center of the story is the fondly regarded title character, named after the coastal city he longs to travel to but will never reach. Mohammad Bakri, a prominent Palestinian actor, gives a towering performance as a noble fool who shouts humorously cryptic proclamations as he walks the dusty streets of his Gaza Strip village, much to the delight of passersby. The narrative also highlights the travails of a former policeman reduced to working as a cotton candy vendor, his two activist sons, one incarcerated and the other in danger of joining him, and his long-suffering wife. With great economy, Masharawi reveals the emotional essence of a displaced people; the final shot is utterly haunting. With Fadi el-Ghoul and George Ibrahim. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 90 min.

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