October 23, 2019

Movie Review: "Sand Storm" (Netflix - 2016)

Although not a geopolitical film, I found this Israeli production about a Bedouin family living in southern Israel interesting. It provides a glimpse of a relatively unknown part of Israeli society. Unlike the other "Israeli Arabs," these people are not of Palestinian heritage, nor do they speak like it.

I will admit that the dialect was fairly difficult to understand, and not at all similar to the Arabic spoken in other parts of Israel or the Palestinian Authority. The subtitling takes a lot of liberties - interpreting rather than translating. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but at times the text would have been better if it had stayed truer to the actual words.

The plot revolves around the second marriage of a hapless man and the effect of that marriage on his first wife and their four daughters. The main interactions occur between the father (Suliman), his first wife (Jalila) and their eldest daughter Layla. The two actresses playing these two women, Ruba Blal and Lamis Ammar, do an excellent job portraying their characters as they both deal with their separate issues. The changing relationship between the two is worth watching.

Jalila has to accept the fact that her husband is taking another wife (Alakel) - and treating the younger woman much better. Layla is rebelling against her upcoming arranged marriage to a man she does not know, while beginning a flirtatious relationship with a fellow university student.

For a rather surprising glimpse into the difference of the treatment afforded the two wives - first wife Jalila versus second wife Alakel - watch the five minutes at time code 1:02 to 1:07. Normally when a Muslim takes a second (or third or fourth) wife, the treatment of the wives is supposed to be generally equal.

Although the first wife will retain a senior position, the accommodations are usually similar. Here we see Jalila's four daughters living in austere conditions (some would say squalor) while right next door, second wife Alakel enjoys modern appliances, furniture, and a fully-stocked kitchen.

Pay attention as well to the general living conditions in the small village. It looks a lot like similar villages in the Arab Middle East - dusty, strewn with trash, animals wandering unsupervised, poor roads, etc. What is surprising is that this village is in Israel. Perhaps Tel Aviv's largesse has yet to reach here.

Strong acting by the two female leads, and a peek into a generally ignored segment of society - watch it.

Netflix subscribers, click here for the link to the movie.