A‘road movie’ set in downtown Nazareth?
That’s the basis of Wajib: The Wedding Invitation, a contemporary Palestinian film that brings an estranged father and son together to carry out the traditional wajib (duty) of hand-delivering the wedding invitations for their daughter and sister. Given that there are more than 300 deliveries to be made by two people forced together by circumstance rather than choice, the scene is set for some fine drama along the way.
What is especially interesting about this film is that it is a true family affair—the characters of the father, Abu Shadi, and his son Shadi, are played by real-life father and son team Mohammad (Abu) and Saleh (Shadi) Bakri.
Abu is a 60-something divorced father and respected schoolteacher living in Nazareth, but Shadi has made his life as an architect in Italy with a girlfriend, supposedly with family links to the Palestine Liberation Organization. While the politics in the film are not overt, it’s easy to sense the tension when the different ethnic groupings who claim Palestine as home are mentioned.
Gradually the story of Abu’s ex-wife, now living in America, is revealed, and we see the shame visited on the father and children left behind in this conservative and traditional society. The strength of the film is the way the tensions are played out. This is very much an old bull and young bull situation, with Abu spreading a fiction that Shadi had qualified as a doctor but chose to do other things, and that he just needed to meet a nice, family-approved girl at his sister’s wedding.
As this urban road trip wends its way through dusty Nazareth, we are given a glimpse into the importance of family, tradition and hospitality.
It is a fascinating glimpse into a very different contemporary culture, taking place in the spiritual homeland of both Christians and Jews.
+ Intriguing look at contemporary Nazareth
– Coarse language, some violence