David

David

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Young Daud is an Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn. He's quiet and introspective by nature, easily dominated by a father who feels he must learn discipline but doesn't realise how his words impact on the boy's self confidence. Daud's older sister wants tio move out so the family is in a constant state of unsoken tension. Then Daud finds a lost Torah and conscientiously tries to return it to the local synagogue. Taken for a Jew, he fearfully names himself David. Through a series of innocent misunderstandings he finds himself drawn into the Jewish community.

It sounds like the set-up for a farce but instead this is a thoughtful, naturalistic film. Though it doesn't have many new things to say - that's part of the point - it works thanks to a powerful central performance from young Muatasem Mishal. The boy's smallness in the face of a conflict bigger than anyone living is heartbreaking to see. His internalisation of a moral struggle that interrupts his attempts to simply be a child gives the film a poignant weight.

With the crisis Daud faces clear from the start, this can be a difficult film to watch, but it's well balanced and the moments when our hero is drawn out of himself by his young Jewish friends are delightful. Parallels are drawn between the Islamophobic and anti-Semitic abuse he receives in different guises without ever feeling forced. The behaviour of the children is acutely observed. Despite Daud's earnest maturity, they don't think like adults, and this gives the film, despite its uneasy ending, an undercurrent of hope.

Some of the supporting performances here are shaky and the sound work comes across like New York Sound Effects Volume 4, but the overall effect is a sensitive film with particular appeal to younger audiences.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2012
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A Muslim kid who doesn't fit in becomes friends with a Jewish boy but doesn't know how to resolve the initial misunderstanding about his background.
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Director: Joel Fendelman

Starring: Muatasem Mishal, Maz Jobrani, Dina Aishah, Michael J. Golden, Markus Goldberg

Year: 2010

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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