Reviewed by: George Williamson

Three widows - Najwa, Nawal and Siham - live in a building, perched upon the Palestinian-Israeli border in Hebron, and, along with their 11 children, struggle to survive in a war zone.

Every few days the Israeli army fortifies the roof and uses it as a gun tower. The building's inhabitants live around them, sweeping up shell casings and testing grenade pins as rings. Life is hard, as the curfew stops them from leaving, whether to take a sick child to the doctor, or buy food and drink. The army's oppression of these families is unpleasant, but more so is the poverty and social stigma of being a widow in Islamic society.

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They deal with it in different ways.

Nawal, whose husband was in Hammas, despises the Jewish people with a fervent anger, hating them for his death and the fact that they are free, whilst she is not. She is disrespected in her own community, which she resents, complaining that once you loose your man you have nothing.

Najwa is angry in a less directed way, shown when she beats her children for being noisy, or making a mess. She travels to Jerusalem to shop, where she can be away from the kids for a few hours.

Siham is the taciturn sort, radiating a sense of complacency, knowing that complaint will not resolve her problems and that the best thing to do is try to live in the middle as best as she can.

The film shows reasons why peace in the Middle East is almost impossible. Racial hatred is deeply ingrained, compacted by poverty and discontentment. Worst of all, it seeps into the children at a young age, turning them from innocents into fanatics.

Anat Even and Ada Ushpiz manage to present these stories in a way that is less about the conflict and more about the human plight of the three women. The camerawork is often shaky, but, as with most documentaries, does not detract from the powerful subject matter, sometimes catching horror, a gun battle on the streets, and at others beauty, a friendly snowball fight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2002
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Powerful documentary about the life of three Palestinian widows and their families.

Director: Anat Even, Ada Ushpiz

Writer: Anat Even, Ada Ushpiz

Starring: Najwa, Nawal, Siham

Year: 2001

Runtime: 73 minutes

Country: Israel


EIFF 2002

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