Screening: Eid Milad Laila (Laila’s Birthday)

October 18, 2011

Join AAFSC and Alwan for the Arts for a free screening of Eid Milad Laila (Laila’s Birthday) on November 17th at 7:00 PM at 150 Court Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

Eid Milad Laila (Laila’s Birthday) by Rashid Masharawi, starring Mohammed Bakri

Palestine / Tunisia/ Netherlands, 2008, 72 minutes. In Arabic with English subtitles 

With: Mohammed Bakri, Areen Omari, Nour Zoubi, Saleh Bakri.

Gaza-born director Rashid Masharawi captures the absurdity of the Palestinian situation in this comically deadpan, stop-and-start “road trip” through the land of checkpoints and barriers. A former judge who still retains his regal bearing, Abu Laila (stone-faced Mohamed Bakri, a Palestinian Buster Keaton) now drives a taxi to make ends meet. His customers are a motley cross-section of Ramallah’s citizens: a young Romeo who hires the taxi to have a place “alone” with his lover; a housewife who’ll stop anywhere there’s a free-food giveaway (“Is this Fatah? Hamas? Who knows? I just saw a line and got in”), armed militia members (to whom Abu Laila points out the “NO SMOKING” and “NO AK-47s” signs) and, in one dramatically complicated case, an ex-convict who leaves his cell phone in the cab. Our harried hero is also trying to regain his former position (his frequent trips to the Ministry of Justice are both comical and heart-breaking) and, today at least, needs a birthday cake for his daughter. Using Abu Laila’s travails as a window into contemporary Palestine, Masharawi reveals a situation both more complicated than one could image and one that is universally human. Most of all, he captures the surprising beauty of Ramallah (“I wanted the city to be a character and different from the way others have depicted it before,” he notes) and the unshakable spirit of its people. “Through [Abu Laila] we can face ourselves as Palestinians,” says Masharawi, “and where we are going in all this.”

Rashid Masharawi was born and raised in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. A painter and installation artist as well as director, he made his feature debut with 1993’s Curfew, which won the UNESCO Award at Cannes. His credits include Haifa (1996), Ticket to Jerusalem (2002), and Waiting (SFIFF 2006), as well as documentaries Long Days in Gaza (1991) and Live from Palestine (2003). In 1996 he founded the Cinema Production and Distribution Center, which offers workshops to Palestinian youth and sponsors the Mobile Cinema Project, bringing film screenings to refugee camps.

The intention of this film series and collaboration between Alwan and The Arab American Family Support Center is to provide film screenings outside of Alwan’s traditional locales in an attempt to engage diverse communities and expose a multiplicity of audiences to Arab culture. The curatorial hypothesis of the series, which showcases the missions of both sponsoring institutions, is meant to assert the primacy and absolute relevance of the social in aesthetic representation. The selected films highlight social issues that are of concern to the public at large and particularly pertinent to the Arab community. While understandably a good portion of the films are from the Arab world, they are works that address issues of migration, mobility, family relations, and gender, to name but a few themes that are at once universally paradigmatic and intensely anchored to the historical narrative of the nascent Arab American community. Other film selections will be of emerging Arab American talent which naturally dwells on questions of identity, integration, nostalgia, all in all critically examining the formation of the hyphenated Arab-American who is the core recipient of services provided by Alwan and The Arab American Family Support Center.