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
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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.


Film Review: Mowgli’s latest jungle run releases on Netflix

Updated 09 December 2018
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Film Review: Mowgli’s latest jungle run releases on Netflix

CHENNAI: Technology is not a bad thing, but when stretched to the extreme it can hamper films. “Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle,” which was released on Netflix this week, seems to suffer on this precise point.

Directed by the Hollywood legend that is Andy Serkis, the film employs his trademark use of technology that records an actor’s performance in three dimensions then maps the digital character, in this case the animals of the jungle, over the top.

While he is famous for his performance-capture techniques, it can be distracting from the plot and a little bizarre to watch on screen as the all-star cast — Benedict Cumberbatch as Bengal tiger Shere Khan, Cate Blanchett as the snake Kaa and Christian Bale as the panther Bagheera — morph into animal form.

Disney’s 2016 computer animated remake of Rudyard Kipling’s work was a huge hit and Serkis’ effort pales in comparison, but the upside to this latest remake of Mowgli’s adventure is that it focuses on the boy-cub’s (played by Rohan Chand) interaction with other humans and does so delightfully.

According to an interview with The Associated Press, Serkis was deep into planning when Disney’s version was announced, and, although he knew the films would be quite different, there was still pressure to be first. Once that “went away” when Disney beat them to theaters, Serkis said, they decided to take the time they needed to refine the story and get the performances and the technology up to his standard.

The film follows Mowgli as he is captured by a hunter (played by Matthew Rhys) and taken to a neighboring village, where a kind woman (Frieda Pinto) nurses him and even sings him a lullaby. Ultimately, the plot boils down to a choice between two worlds — the jungle and the village — and the young boy must choose between the lesser of two evils.

Serkis’ work has an important message for audiences and shouts loud and clear about the dangers of expanding urban developments in countries like India. The forests are shrinking, says a character in the film, and perhaps this film will shed light on the need to save the wildlife therein.