Directed by Thierry Binisti
Written by Thierry Binisti and Valerie Zenatti. Cinematography by Jean-Paul Husson and Laurent Brunet.
With Agathe Bonitzer, Hiam Abbass and Mahmoud Shalaby.
Canada, France, Israel, 2011. In Arabic, French and Hebrew with English subtitles. 99mins.
Co-Sponsored by Carolyn Cavalier Rosenberg and Sanford Rosenberg
Inspired by the acclaimed young-adult novel by French writer Valérie Zenatti (who co-wrote the screenplay), this modern-day Romeo-and-Juliet tale is set in Israel and Gaza during the conflicts of 2007 and 2008. After witnessing a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Tal, a 17-year-old French-Israeli girl, writes a letter to Gaza seeking understanding. She has her older brother throw the message in a bottle into the Mediterranean (he’s performing his military service nearby.) The bottle washes ashore at the feet of 20-year-old Gaza resident Naïm, who overcomes his initial repugnance and emails back as “Gazaman.” The two begin an exchange. Though they live less than 100 kilometers apart, they never see each other, communicating only through emails, texts and clandestine letters. While they often disagree, their relationship only deepens as the political situation around them worsens. The filmmakers also decline to take sides. As tensions mount, the film deftly cuts back and forth ever more rapidly between the two. Though Tal lives in relative comfort and Naïm in comparable poverty, the movie shows how they are both, in their own ways, trapped by circumstances. The growing sense of confinement only makes it that much more satisfying when they each find paths to freedom in this gripping drama.