Lives in war torn regions like Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq etc are difficult; there is no denying that. We have news channels broadcasting the frequent bombings, foreign interference and poverty which apparently have brought lives there to a standstill. So much has happened and is happening in those regions that every individual has a story to tell. Despite all that exposition we often lack an understanding of the lives in those areas. The following movies will act as a window for the rest of the world to get a glimpse of the life of an individual or communities of these areas showcasing how these people survive amidst all the harsh realities,. No, these are not war movies but often present the conflict as an undertone, never seizing away the reality of the situation. Give these movies a shot, you can thank me later.
Lemon Tree (2008)
With the recent political tension between Israel and Palestine, this non English film makes for the most apt watch of this time to give you an insight into a Palestinian’s life at the mercy of the mighty Israel. However it does so in the most simplistic yet the very impactful of ways. ‘Lemon Tree’ features the lives of two women- a Palestinian widow, Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) and the wife of Israel’s defense minister who live near the borders being neighbors to each other. The story generally unfolds through the legal efforts of the Palestinian woman to save her precious lemon grove from being axed down that borders on the minister’s vicinity; the Israeli secret service feels it poses threat of attacks to the defense minister’s family from the other side and even restricts Salma’s access to her own grove by putting up barbed wire fences around.
Salma Zidane leaves a solitary life off her lemon grove which has deep sentimental value to her. As a Palestinian, having sacrificed and compromised enough she refuses to accept this one-sided decree. Instead, she chooses to do the unthinkable i.e. legally challenge Israel’s unreasonable security concerns. Despite offers of compensation from Israel’s side she remains unmoved, which is a rare case scenario.
It seems impossible in the face of reality. However, help from a legal expert in the field with whom she develops a distinct bond, gives her hope. The film explores Salma’s life and struggled along with that of the minister’s wife and also the irony of the situation of the two women.
It’s a compelling non English film featuring the Israel-Palestine impasse with heartrending performances. With the pervasive tension in the West Bank as the undercurrent, ‘Lemon Tree’ shows the side effects that such strenuous bilateral relationship casts on individual lives, be it from whichever side they belong to. Surprising as it may seem, this is an Israeli film and for obvious reasons has drawn a plethora of criticisms from the locals. Watch this film for an unfussy yet contemplative ride that is bound to stir you emotionally.
Where do we go now? (2011)
When we think of war torn areas it’s all the atrocities that come to our mind or the pain stricken lives of people. ‘Where do we go now?’ presents a very positive and the rare comical presentation of a village where people of different faiths are prone to the same animosity that rides the whole country and their rigorous attempts to avert the situation. Set in a remote village in Lebanon, the movie tells the story of a group of women who make every effort (often comical) to keep the news of the civil fight taking place in the rest of the country out of their men’s knowledge. They were afraid that the news would create a rift in the otherwise healthy relationship between the Christians and the Muslims of the village. This is an amazing village where the Church and Mosque stand side by side and so do the Muslims and Christians. Destroying the only one community TV at the dead of the night or luring their men using Ukrainian dancers are only some of the tactics these well bonded group of females adopt. However tension sneaks in despite the village women’s efforts to keep bad news at bay.
The plot of this non English film is very heartwarming and one will soon find oneself in accord with the high-spirited clan of females, rooting for their success. A combination between comedy and satire, ‘Where do we go now?’ manages to present an inspiring and different perspective of a war-clad zone that successfully incites introspection among the audience.
The film does not succeed entirely in being an art film with the influence of melodrama in certain areas. Nonetheless, it comes with a refreshing feel despite bringing into light political shambles that isn’t typical of Lebanon alone. As long as you can connect with the characters, plot-holes are excusable.
Children of Heaven (1997)
Before I start telling you the details I must mention that it is one of the finest non English films you will ever watch. Now, read on!
Iranian dramas always make for a heart-wrenching watch and ‘Children of Heaven’ is that and more. It is an Iranian family drama about the adventures of a sibling duo (brother and sister) in order to recover a lost pair of shoes. Ali and Zahra’s poverty-laden family is already struggling with expenditures while Ali loses Zahra’s favorite and only pair of shoes at the bazaar. Keeping the event from their parents the duo, particularly Ali, go through a series of attempts to recover the lost pair. Till a new or the old pair is managed, the siblings share Ali’s school shoes that they interchange during the break between the two shifts each study on.
A moving tale of family bond, hurdles and determination ‘Children of Heaven’ would enthrall your mind and move your heart. The heart of the story is well-supported, in fact, uplifted by the finesse in direction. The two child artists’ phenomenal performance combined with oodles of cuteness makes this film a must watch and a ten on ten.
Set in early 1990 Iraq, ‘Bekas’ is a Kurdish non English film presenting the other side of the war-torn land of Iraq. Written and directed by Karzan Kader, the film is about two brothers, Zana and Dana, who hit the road setting off for America on the back of their donkey, named Michael Jackson. You have already probably got an idea of the mood of the film. The brothers having enough of the cruelty of reality gets hope from a glimpse of the Superman movie that they manage to get through a hole in the wall. Thus, in order to meet the superhero and break free from all their problems they decide to head to America. They also prepare a list of the people they want to be punished by Superman which is topped by the notorious Saddam Hussein.
Bekas is part comical and part satirical take on the adventures these two shoe shiners go through to make it to the land of the dreams. Dressed in rags, these two manage to sneak through army camps and detention centre without having their resolve broken. They are determined and have nothing to lose. While watching, the audience is certain to be amused by the protagonists’ outlandish plan, all the while worrying that this is the moment something happens to the duo. So, what really happens? Can they really make it in the end or do they fall into some serious trouble? Well, I’m not going to spoil the fun for you. Give it a watch for the fun and the tension.
Bekas is an engrossing story with the right amount of pace in direction. The two leads are endearing and pull off their respective roles with great precision.