Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2014. Belssan. Screenplay by Suha Arraf. Cinematography by Yaron Scharf. Produced by Suha Arraf. Music by Boaz Schory. Production Design by Eitan Levi. Costume Design by Hamada Atallah. Film Editing by Arik Leibovitch.
A teenaged girl is removed from the orphanage in which she has grown up and brought to live with her three aunts in their fortress of a home in Ramallah. The women, two of them old maids and the other a widow, are as unusual as can be, devout Christians who are constantly dressed like a 1970s Chanel ad and clinging to ideals of propriety that seem outdated in the modern, predominantly Muslim West Bank in which they live. Badia’s arrival sets off a rage of frustration for Juliette, Violet and Antoinette, reminding them of wasted younger days and missed opportunities, not to mention how much they look down on her because their brother had married a Muslim woman against the family’s wishes. The girl is desperate to do well in her new home, basically Dark Shadows in a more practical setting, but is immediately ill-fitted for the rigid ideas of deportment and modesty that her aunts believe is her only hope for finding a husband, which is made the ultimate goal for getting her out of the house and into a life of her own. Told with great photographic style and not a small amount of sassy humour, this is a very dark comedy in which director Suha Arraf displays a wry, slightly bitter dislike for her characters. The odd glimpse of sympathy at the women’s choice to be so strict, particularly the eldest sister played expertly by Nisreen Faour, helps soften the hateful ignorance they show for their own happiness or those around them, but the cynical conclusion reveals a filmmaker outraged at the kind of stuffy hypocrisy that she has absolutely no patience for.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2014