North American Premiere
Waleed (Amer Hlehel), a cynical 40-year-old Palestinian Arab living in Haifa, struggles with chronic depression and writer’s block. Two years in therapy have felt like a waste of his wife’s money, and tensions in his marriage are on the rise. His half-hearted attempts at finding a quiet reprieve in novel writing are frustrated by the arrival of his cocky new neighbour Jalal (Ashraf Farah), a handyman and low-level criminal who likes blasting pop music at top volume.
Waleed’s initial annoyance with him soon morphs into fascination when he learns that Jalal is deeply indebted to some dangerous men. He starts tagging along for Jalal’s shake-downs, ostensibly as research for his crime novel. Their complicated new friendship takes a darker and more dangerous turn when Waleed’s ulterior motives come to light. Compelling and psychologically nuanced, Maha Haj’s dramatic black comedy casts a wry and affecting look at class struggle, masculine pride, and mental illness.
Best Screenplay, Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2022
Amer Hlehel, Ashraf Farah, Anat Hadid, Samir Elias, Cynthia Saleem, Shaden Kanboura
In Arabic with English subtitles
Sunday October 09
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Waleed struggles with depression, married life, and writer’s block. Upon learning that his cocky new neighbour Jalal is indebted to some dangerous men, he starts tagging along for Jalal’s shake-downs, ostensibly as research for a crime novel.
Baher Aghbariya, Thanassis Karathanos, Martin Hampel, Juliette Lepoutre, Pierre Menahem, Marios Piperides, Janine Teerling
Maha Haj graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in English and Arabic literature. She wrote and directed the short film Oranges (2009) and the documentary Behind These Walls (2010). In 2015, she shot her first feature film Personal Affairs, which was selected for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard category. The film also won the Haifa Film Festival’s Best Feature Award in 2016 and the International Mediterranean Film Festival Montpellier of Mediterranean Cinema (Cinémed) Critics’ Award, among others.
Filmography: Behind These Walls (2010); Personal Affairs (2016)