I Say Dust


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I Say Dust
"A thoughtful film which packs a lot of ideas into a tight space, I Say Dust speaks well to the talents of those involved."

Moun (Mounia Akl) loves chess. It's rational. She thinks of herself as a thinker, likes to plan ahead. She first sees Hal (Hala Alyan) through the window of the shop where she works, and is fascinated by her thick, curly hair. Hal agrees to take a chess lesson from her, plays so badly that it looks deliberate. Moun says she doesn't like poetry, but attends Hal's spoken word performance anyway.

Structured around the poem I Am Dust, which forms its spine, this is a film about identity, the sense of self and the immigrant experience. New York is a city full of immigrants, first generation and tenth, but Moun is still perplexed by the idea of feeling an affiliation with a country one has never visited. She and Hal circle one another cautiously. Where are you from? can be a dangerous question. How much does it impact the options open to them? How much does Moun, distanced as she is, understand what it can feel like to be asked that every day?

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Picking out the differences as well as the similarities between the two women's connections to ethnicity and history, I Say Dust positions sexuality as a decidedly secondary concern. Modernity has made it easier to navigate, even as it has invented new challenges for those painted as outsiders by their race. Both young women seem entirely free of complicating attachment or conventional responsibilities. There is romance, sweet and ephemeral - an encounter more potent, perhaps, for the sense of coming home.

A thoughtful film which packs a lot of ideas into a tight space, I Say Dust speaks well to the talents of those involved. It's no surprise that it has multiple awards to its name. Catch it if you can.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2016
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I Say Dust packshot
An encounter between two Arab-American women in New York leads them to question what they think of as home.

Director: Darine Hotait

Writer: Darine Hotait

Starring: Hala Alyan, Mounia Akl

Year: 2015

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: US


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