“Let It Be Morning” comes to the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Feb. 24. This low-key story is about a village of Palestinians trapped when the Israeli military closes off the road to Jerusalem for no apparent reason. The film is based on a novel by Palestinian author Sayed Kashua, written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, and it is Israel’s Oscar nomination.
Set in the pre-1967 era, the film begins with the wedding celebration of Aziz (Samer Bisharat), younger brother of Sami (Alex Bakri). An illustration early on of this soon-to-be-stymied society is the caged doves that repeatedly refuse to fly.
Sami, a Palestinian turned Israeli citizen who grew up in the village, is the manager of a Jerusalem tech company, admired for his success. Somewhat arrogantly, he returns for the wedding with his wife Mira (Juna Suleiman) and son Adam (Maryam Hamdan). Once the border is closed, Sami and his family go to live with his father Tarek (Salim Daw) and his mother Zahera (Izabel Ramadan), which ramps up family tensions.
The frustrated Palestinian villagers wait outside the closed border, guarded by an armed Israeli soldier. When one of the Palestinians tries to escape in his SUV, he’s killed, his van run off the road. It’s a warning to the rest, including the illegal West Bank Palestinians, disparagingly called daffawis, so they return to their village. Sami is among them, and at one point he tries to reason with the Israeli guard.
It’s important to spend time learning about these Palestine villagers, because this slow-moving film primarily explores the conversations and interactions among them as they wait. Missing work as a result of the stalemate, Sami is fired, and the villagers suspect the stalemate is because of the daffawis living there.
Sami, who tells his mother about his involvement with another woman, spends his time renewing contacts with friends and neighbors. They include Abed (Ehab Salami), his taxi-driving childhood pal, as well as his younger brother and Sami’s married sister. Meanwhile, the electricity is cut off, adding to tensions between the Palestinians and the controlling and armed Israelis. The Palestinians’ anxiety increases as they start to run out of food.
The villagers demonstrate, to no avail, and Sami helps Aziz toss a hand grenade at the opposition. Abed, who longs for his estranged wife, finds his taxi destroyed in a fire. Sami confesses that he’s not the respected guy everyone thinks he is. “I lie, I can’t stand my family, I cheat on my wife,” he says. The guitar-playing and snoozing Israeli guard is shocked awake into shooting Abed after the taxi driver tosses pebbles at him.
There is not much action in “Let It Be Morning.” Instead, it explores in depth the complicated personalities and interactions of the villagers, and illustrates an unexamined element of the fractious relations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Information and tickets for “Let It Be Morning” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.