Ave Maria


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Ave Maria
"Ave Maria never ridicules the various religious traditions it references but gently makes sport of the hypocrisy around them."

In recent years, more and more films have been trying to capture the reality of life in Israel and Palestine - the day to day interactions of people from different cultural backgrounds which, of necessity, transcend prejudice even when they are steeped in it. Most of these films are made by people seeking to solve problems. They focus directly on conflict or on fraught social issues. Ave Maria takes a much lighter look at the matter and finds comedy and warmth in unexpected places.

If one is looking for a warm reception at a convent, one might do better than to begin by driving into, and beheading, its statue of the Virgin Mary. This is what one hapless family of Jewish settlers does, however, whilst taking a trip through the West Bank, anxious to get back to their settlement before the Sabbath starts and it becomes immoral for them to be operating a car. After their accident, the understandably affronted Sisters of Mercy are the only people they can turn to for help. But whilst they think the best option would be for someone to come and collect them - impossible, of course, without either religious diversity or willful sin - the rules of the Sabbath forbid them from using the phone, whilst the nuns' vows forbid them from speaking.

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Pitting ancient rules and modern necessities against each other at the same time as it plays out its contemporary culture clash comedy, Ave Maria never ridicules the various religious traditions it references but gently makes sport of the hypocrisy around them. It's full of religious stereotypes but they're affectionately delivered in a way that invites members of those groups to laugh along. It's also easy for anyone, regardless of background, to sympathise with the frustration of the stranded family and with the limited patience the nuns are able to exercise in pursuit of their merciful vocation.

One of five films nominated for 2016's Best Live Action Short Oscar, Ave Maria is a charming and beautifully observed little film which celebrates the discovery of a common humanity. That's 'common' in the Wildean sense, which should not be confused with 'normal'.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2016
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Ave Maria packshot
When their car breaks down in the West Bank, a Jewish settler family turns to a convent for help.

Director: Basil Khalil

Writer: Basil Khalil, Daniel Yáñez Khalil

Starring: Huda Al Imam, Ruth Farhi, Maya Koren, Shady Srour, Maria Zreik

Year: 2015

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: Palestine, France, Germany


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