Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 7:59 pm 
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AMEEN NAYFEH: 200 METERS (2020) - - San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2021 (July 22 - Aug. 1)



You can't get there from here

As first-time director Nayfeh's title makes clear, this is about what dominates the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank: the wall of separation. The simple plot is about how difficult this makes life. Sometimes this is like a thriller, sometimes a road picture, sometimes it seems just too tedious or complicated but all too true. The screenplay is nearly derailed by a partly too obvious, partly too mysterious, subplot of a German woman. But in the main role of Mustafah, the deeply talented, extremely soulful Palestinian actor Ali Suliman is a triumph.

Mustafah lives 200 meters from his wife Salwah (Lana Zreik) and their two kids, across the wall. They can see each other and they signal back and forth with lights in the evening, talking on their cell phones. This make-do is because his principles won't permit him to apply for full laissez-passer and Israeli residence that her residence and employment (at two jobs) in Israel migt allow him to get. What he can earn is not enough for her to give up her Israeli employment and move back with him, as he would like. He works lately for Abu Nidal (Gassan Abbas) on construction jobs with temporary permits. This has just expired when he gets the news that his son has been seriously injured in a car accident and is in hospital. To get there he decides to smuggle himself in, at an exorbitant rate of 250 shekels (76 dollars), and it will take hours. This is just about as trustworthy as a coyote to get a Mexican into the US, except the travel is mostly by van or in the trunk of a car.

In the van Mustafah encounters a sneering attitude from the smuggler and a motley crew including an ill prepared kid called Rami (Mahmoud Abu Eita) who thinks he wants to find work but has no preparation or connections. Rami becomes sort of Mustafah's baby. Also notable is Anne (Anna Unterberger), the German woman, with a film camera. She is with Kifah, dressed up for a wedding and misled about Anne's identity and purpose. The Variety review found Anne a "parody of the German tourist in Palestine." Indeed her taking a lot of random film on a risky journey without evident pro credentials may fill that bill, but her identity isn't what it seems and certainly not what Kifah thinks. Do we have to have a foreigner to draw so much undue attention?

It gets hard, it gets complicated, and it gets dangerous. And it ends more or less happily, all of which perhaps is necessary. As often happens what counts is that Nayfeh takes us to the world of the Palestinian and as mentioned all is saved by the many-layered performance of Ali Suliman. His family scenes, drenched in love, carry over the long sequence of pointlessly difficult crossing of this little messed-up strip of land. It was remarkable to watch this film right after Oren Gerner's Africa about an Israeli family living in a village that seems not to have a problem in the world.

200 Meters,* 95 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 3, 2020 in Giornate degli Autori; at Venice it won the BNL People's Choice Award, and later 15 other awards and several nominations. It showed at Reykjavik, London, El Gouna (Egypt), also at at least a dozen international festivals into 2021 including Seattle and Moscow. It was screened for this review as the Centerpiece film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 22-Aug. 1, 2021). In-person screening at the Castro Theatre, Saturday, July 24, 11:00 a.m.
**Arabic: ٢٠٠ متر

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