Palestinian comedy short film nominated for Oscar
One of the nominees for an Academy Award announced yesterday was Ave Maria, by Palestinian director Basil Khalil.
What do you get when you force Palestinian nuns and Israeli Jews to work together? Well, as evident by Basil Khalil’s Ave Maria, it’s just the right ingredients for a quirky comedy.
The 15-minute short follows a group of five Palestinian Carmelite nuns from the Sisters of Mercy convent who are forced to abandon their silent prayers after a bantering family of Israeli settlers accidentally crash into their property.
In spite of their religious differences, the nuns, who are forbidden to speak due to a vow of silence, and the Israeli family, whose own physical abilities are limited due to the Sabbath, must work together to find a solution.
From the trailers and interviews with the director, I do not sense any overtly political or anti-Israel message. It really makes fun of what seem to be arbitrary religious rules colliding with each other. That is a promising premise for a comedy. The director says that his point is to show how rules that seem strict can be broken sometimes. Without seeing the film I cannot say how respectfully he looks at either the Jews or the nuns, but there are no obvious problems in the trailers.
Although the film is considered “Palestinian,” the director appears to be an Israeli citizen – he says he was brought up in Nazareth.
And in interviews he reveals his own biases, mentioning those fictional “Jews-only roads” and implying an equivalence between Palestinians today and Jews of the 1930s in Europe:
I like comedies… I like entertaining films, at the same time, stories from the Middle East are always grim and miserable, especially from Palestine, and yes the situation is quite grim and miserable, but we, especially Palestinians, have developed a sense of humor, like the ghetto humor, which you got in Europe in the 30s, where they had to alleviate their sufferings through laughing or finding jokes around their own miserable lives, as well as educating on the situation. You will find people more likely to watch a comedy than a politically charged film, and will learn that in the West Bank there are roads for Jews only; nice road, and there are roads for Arabs only, which are full of pot holes and are less maintained.
Even so, based on the trailers, the film does not appear problematic.
Here is one scene:
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