Middle East crisis in spotlight at Toronto film festival

Films on Middle East proved too politically sensitive for mainstream audiences.

Reuters September 13, 2012
Middle East crisis in spotlight at Toronto film festival

TORONTO: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has taken a backseat in recent days to the Arab Spring, but at the Toronto International Film Festival an unusually high number of films shine fresh light on the decades-long conflict.

Dramas like The Attack and Out in the Dark explore the human side of the strife, while documentaries such as State 194 and The Gatekeepers offer insight into the politics behind the conflict through interviews with top political and security players.

Considered one of the world’s top festivals, Toronto helps kick off the Hollywood awards season, though films on the Middle East could prove too politically sensitive for mainstream audiences.

In The Attack, Palestinian actor Ali Suliman plays Amin, a prominent Arab surgeon living a comfortable life in Tel Aviv. Amin’s cozy existence is shattered when he learns his wife is responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 17 people.

Based on the book by Yasmina Khadra, The Attack plays on the human elements in acts of betrayal, while also offering insight into how precarious life can be for Arabs living in Israel.

“Even if you live in that bubble, trying to pretend that the conflict is far away — eventually the conflict seeps back in,” said the film’s director, Ziad Doueiri. “We can get along as much as we can, but when push comes to shove, you’re again an Arab and I’m an Israeli.”

Another drama putting a fresh spin on the Israel-Palestine divide is Out in the Dark, a love story by first-time director Michael Mayer that centres on a gay lawyer, Roy, who falls in love with a Palestinian graduate student, Nimr. The budding relationship is complicated when Nimr’s visa is suddenly revoked and he faces deportation from Tel Aviv. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.         

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