Film review: ‘The Reports on Sarah and Saleem:’ An affair to remember

A still from ‘The Reports on Sarah and Saleem.’
Updated 21 November 2018

Film review: ‘The Reports on Sarah and Saleem:’ An affair to remember

TOKYO: Countless movies have tackled extramarital affairs, but Palestinian auteur Muayad Alayan gives the theme a new twist to his second feature outing, “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem.”

Screened at the recent 31st Tokyo International Film Festival, the movie is a heartrending account of the humiliation and harassment an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man face when they are caught having an adulterous relationship. Not by their families, but by intelligence officers, underlining how political rivalries have begun to slip between the sheets. What seems utterly cruel is the kind of punishment the man has to undergo by authorities.

Written by Alayan’s brother, Rami, the first scenes in the film show Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) and Saleem (Adeeb Safadi) in the throes of their love affair. While she is married to an Israeli intelligence officer and runs a cafe, he is a struggling Palestinian delivery boy with a pregnant wife. Sarah and Saleem are complete opposites — geographically and religiously — but meet at night.

During the day, they lead pretty unexciting lives. She has a moody husband in David (Ishai Golan), and he has a sweet wife, Bisa (Miasa Abd Elhadi), who dotes on her husband. Things carry on until Saleem, in an act of sheer bravado, takes Sarah on a trip to Bethlehem.

Alayan gets the best out of his actors and while Kretchner and Safadi are entirely believable as their characters, it is Elhadi who scores top marks as the patient wife whose spirited life slips into darkness when she finds out about her husband’s affair. She conveys her anguish with a touch of brilliance.

Cinematographer Sebastian Bock uses a handheld camera, which provides the right degree of intimacy and lights up his sets imaginatively to convey the contrast between East and West Jerusalem. What feels like a bit of a drag, however, is the legal process that plays out later in the movie, although it does not harm the film as a whole.

Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

Jana Ghalayini’s work at Art Dubai invited visitors to draw on their responses.
Updated 40 min 1 sec ago

Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

  • Female-led art collective wants society to rethink the way women of color are perceived
  • Banat Collective publishes artworks in print and online and hosts events to encourage debate

DUBAI: Sara bin Safwan founded the Banat Collective in 2016 to connect with other like-minded people, championing
their art through the group’s website,
The group aims to help society to rethink the way women of color are perceived by showcasing contemporary art, poetry and other writings. The collective publishes artistic works in print and online and hosts events aimed at spreading awareness and encouraging debate.
“A lot of the artists are young and emerging and never had the chance to be either exhibited or publicized, so we interview them to offer a critical, insightful look at their work,” said Safwan, 25.

Now an assistant curator at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Safwan graduated from London’s world-famous Central Saint Martins college in 2015 with a degree in culture, criticism and curation.
It was while studying in Britain that she developed a keen interest in post-colonial theory; the Banat Collective focuses on themes relating to both womanhood and intersectionality, which is an analytic framework to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those most marginalized in society.
“The mission is not only to connect artists but open up discussions about Arab womanhood in the region, because there’s not necessarily any other place to do so. We do that through art, poetry and other writings,” Safwan said.
“I use the word ‘womanhood’ to make it a more accessible term because if I use ‘feminism,’ it’s a very politically charged word that has almost been tainted by Western ideologies. And those Western ideologies don’t necessarily fit within our context as Middle Easterners.”
“In the Middle of it All” is the collective’s debut publication. Released in 2018, the book is a 31-artist collaboration of visual art, writing and poetry. Our book is a means to help us stand out — it’s thoughtfully curated and tackles a specific issue, which is ‘coming of age’,” she says.
“It’s a notion that’s taboo in the Arab world and either unheard of or misunderstood. It was a chance for female artists to tell their own story.
“Throughout the book, we go through many topics such as puberty, identity, sexual harassment and abuse, sisterhood, motherhood, beauty standards and all these other societal expectations.”
The collective held its first exhibition as part of March’s Art Dubai fair, showcasing a short film, “Ivory Stitches & Saviors” by member Sarah Alagroobi, which she describes as an “unflinching glimpse into identity, colonialism and whitewashing.”
Says Safwan: “It’s a tribute to all women of color who have been marginalized and, all too often, erased.”
Another work by Palestinian-Canadian artist Jana Ghalayini is comprised of a 26-meter-long piece of chiffon on which visitors can draw with chalk pastels in response to questions posed by the artist including “How does your environment affect your identity?”
Safwan adds: “The themes we explored were vulnerability and community — it was a way to introduce ourselves in person because previously we only had an online presence.”
Born and raised in the UAE to Honduran and Emirati parents, Safwan is now working with Alagroobi and Ghalayini to brainstorm ideas for future projects that include a podcast series on the notion of shame. The collective is self-funded and run by volunteers.
“I hope there will be more opportunities to showcase our work and collaborate with others. This year, we will be publishing more content,” Safwan said.