QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE RED SEA
On the surface, Motaz (Samer al Masri) is kind and doting father and husband, entirely devoted to his wife Hala (Kinda Alloush) and daughter Nezia (Hala Zein), aged around 10. He’s skilled with DYI. He likes dancing and the impromptu friendly banter. He wants to teach his girl how to use fishing rod. Beneath the surface, however, he is a fragile, obsessive and manipulative human being, strongly attached to religious and traditional values. A war raging is outside. All of his neighbours except for one family have already left. Soldiers warn Motaz about the almost inevitable prospect of death should he stay. And yet the stubborn man refuses to budge, putting the lives of Hala and Nezia at risk. “I don’t want to be refugee in some strange foreign land”, “I have to vouch for my family name”, he proudly justifies his actions.
The film title translates as “displacement of water, soul, people”, we are informed as the movie opens. It is such displacement that Motaz so vigorously rejects. The water has already been cut. Their souls have been stirred. Motaz will fight with every ounce of his strength in order to prevent his family (people) from being displaced. He becomes increasingly deranged, his demands entirely futile. He pretends that his heavily bombed house is still perfectly inhabitable. Te insists that everyone uses and even locks the front door despite a massive hole on the wall right next to it. He covered the damaged walls with bedsheets. He orders his wife to cover up her hair when there is nobody at sight except for the family across the street, who are too busy trying to survive. He does not want to join forces with them because he does not want his female child to mix with their sons.
Hala and Nezia are the voice of reason. Hala insists that they travel to the sea as soon as possible. But her demands fall into deaf ear, in a society where the man almost always has the final say. Nezia makes up stories of horrific premonitory dreams in order to convince her father to leave. She warns him: “this is not a film, it will not end well”. That too fails. Motaz remains adamant that the family shall not move. But for how long will our two female characters stoop the authority of the patriarch? Will they risk their lives in the name of a delusional male?
Despite the thorny topic of war, Nezouh is a very-lighted hearted film. This is achieved by instilling Motaz’s delusional actions with humour, and also by focussing on the child character. Nezia is a witty and energetic girl. She strikes a friendship with one of the neighbour’s sons, a boy of around her age, whom she meets in secret by climbing the giant hole on her bedroom’s ceiling. These encounters give the film a gentle, almost dreamlike quality. This does not stop Nezouh from treading into adult territory. Murder, violence, domestic abuse and even underage marriage are no child’s play.
Nezouh showed at the 2nd Red Sea International Film Festival.