Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Rana's father is going to the airport at 4 p.m., and she can either get married, or leave the country with him. He supplies her with a list of eligible bachelors who have asked for her hand in marriage. But she is in love with Khalil. Can she find him, ask him to marry her, find a registrar, get her hair done, gather the relatives and get married -- all before 4 o'clock?
This could be the description of a Hollywood romantic comedy. And indeed it is a romantic comedy of sorts, as romance and comedy survive in the midst of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The movie takes place on both sides of the armed border separating Jerusalem and the Palestinian settlement of Ramallah, and although the comedy occupies the foreground, the background is dominated by checkpoints and armed soldiers, street funerals and little boys throwing rocks, bulldozers tearing down buildings and a general state of siege.
Rana (Clara Khoury) is a Palestinian who is 17; her lover Khalil (Khalifa Natour), a theater director, seems to be around 40. Although her father has grave doubts about their marriage, they cite Islamic law which allows them to wed if they inform the father in the presence of a registrar. Her problem is to find her lover, find the registrar, find her father, and get them all together in the same place at the same time. This involves several trips back and forth through armed roadblocks that quietly make the point that Palestinians spend all day every day facing hostility and suspicion.
What's interesting is that the movie, made by the Netherlands-based Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, makes little overt point of its political content; the politics are the air which the characters breathe, but the story is about their short-term romantic goals. And those are made more complicated because Rana is not a simple woman. She changes her mind, she gets jealous, she risks missing the deadline in order to get her hair done, she sometimes seems older, sometimes like a child.