Reviewed by: Symon Parsons

Commenting on the political situation in another country is always a dangerous undertaking. This situation is compounded when that state is Israel and the setting is the occupied territories. Undaunted by this, writer/director Saverio Costanzo's political drama takes his audience into the home of a Palestinian family whose lives are suddenly and violently ripped apart by the ongoing conflict.

Defying western stereotypes, this is a progressive well-to-do family, where father Mohammad insists on education for all his children, including his daughters. He's also fiercely protective of his home, a haven amidst the chaos. It is this stubbornness and his refusal to move the family into a safer zone that causes trouble when the Israeli army moves in.

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The Israelis take over the upper level of the house, destroy the family greenhouse and lock Mohammad and his family into the basement at night. This brutal invasion only stiffens Mohammad's resolve to survive and rebuild. He may have lost his country, but he will not lose his home and, by extension, his family. It is his tragedy that in refusing to give up his house, he may lose both.

The tension between the family and their unwelcome guests escalates when Mohammad's daughter Mariam (Hend Ayoub) finds a way out of the family's night time prison and begins eavesdropping on the Israelis. It turns out they are using the house to launch raids in the neighbourhood, prompting Mohammad's son Jamal (Marco Alsaying) to plot reprisals against the occupiers.

Private winds up the tension, showing how each step in a conflict comes slowly, inexorably and often between individuals who are not natural enemies. The occupying soldiers are treated even handedly, conscripts who have no desire to oppress anybody. However, the culture of mistrust places both sides against each other with inevitable results.

Costanzo's documentary style camerawork and his use of Arab and Jewish actors lends an air of reality to this claustrophobic thriller, based on actual events. It is not a hopeful film by any means, despite recent political developments. However, in his depiction of a father, who tenaciously holds on in the face of destruction, we are at least given the impression that integrity can survive even in the face of warfare.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2005
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A Palestinian family is subjected to Israeli occupation of the most personal kind.
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Director: Saverio Costanzo

Writer: Camilla Costanzo, Saverio Costanzo, Alessio Cremonini, Sayed Oashua

Starring: Mohammad Bakri, Areen Omari, Hend Ayoub, Marco Alsaying, Lior Miller, Tomer Russo

Year: 2004

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


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