If you are looking for a family drama tackling the meaning of home and tradition versus leaving the nest, look no further than Wajib! Palestinian writer and director Annemarie Jacir delivers a highly enjoyable road movie through the streets of Nazareth, where Abu Shadi drives around with his son Shadi (played by real-life father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri) in order to hand deliver invitations to his daughter Amal’s wedding.
Abu Shadir’s car, which he has owned for decades, is the setting of a large part of the film in which he has a chance, between the many stops at relatives’ and friends’ places, to reconnect with his son, visiting from his adopted home Italy.
Taking place over the course of one long day, this film is above all a Nazareth family portrait in 2017, with its economic difficulties and upkeep of face and traditions.
Abu Shadi has lived in Nazareth his whole life and is a well-known teacher around town. He recently suffered from a heart attack, after which his doctor recommended he stop smoking. This proves difficult for him, as is accepting that his son may not marry a local girl and that some of his acquaintances are dying around his age. His architect son, who today is wearing colourful clothes, keeps complaining about Nazareth’s poor city planning, as well as about the lack of freedom in a state where “one wants to get rid of the Palestinians who speak up”.
Shadi is particularly angry at the fact that his father wants to invite Ronnie to the wedding. He calls him a spy who has total control over Abu Shadi’s career at the school. This provocation forces Abu Shadi to remind his son about what he has sacrificed for his children in the wake of their mother leaving them and him wanting to preserve a certain dignity. There are those who choose to leave, and those who face the facts and the reality around them and stay.
However, despite the bickering, disagreements and the abundance of coffee served by every single person they visit, the two seem thrilled to be in each other’s presence.
We realise that there is no place like home and nothing like sharing an evening cigarette with a relative. When the city’s chaos, fights and traffic jams cease, and you start telling the truth, nothing can replace that peace. Jacir’s intelligent writing inserts lovely moments of humour in endearing situations that are unique to the local customs, like stubbornly serving food to guests or gossiping. One wonders whether Shadi has passersby offering him fresh bread or biscuits in Italy. Does he have anyone there who’s seen him grow up? These questions are the curse of the one who leaves his or her country behind.
In Official Competition, Wajib is a winner for its warm-hearted characters and passionate portrayal of a family that needs each other above all else on the eve of an important family event. These types of intimate family films are some of my favourites as we know that their originality stems from the writer’s heart.