Still from The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

Film Review: The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

This outstanding Palestinian production tells of an extra-marital affair and its political repercussions in a divided Jerusalem.

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Once in a while, a film comes along from an unexpected source, and stakes a claim with the greats.

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem is such a film.

Directed by Muayad Alayan and written by his brother, Rami Musa Alayan, this Palestinian production is a world-class movie, with a story that is both embedded in context, and universal.

An extra-marital affair between Israeli cafe owner Sarah, and Palestinian bakery delivery man, Saleem, is played out against the backdrop of a divided Jerusalem. One night, on a visit to Bethlehem in Arab/East Jerusalem, a minor fight breaks out, which leads to a complicated series of political events.

Based on true events, Alayan’s script is seamless, rich and refreshingly grown-up. He knows that the personal is political, and the political is personal. The divisions within the respective marriages of Saleem and Sarah are echoed in the divisions of the city within which they live. Every aspect of this work is pitched at just the right level: the violence, the sex, the humour, the politics, and the warmth. It is two hours long, and never once lags or looks like cinematic “filler”. Every moment is important. We become witnesses to an exquisite unraveling.

Sivane Kretchner/Kerchner is outstanding as Sarah. Adeeb Safadi leaps off the screen as Saleem. Israeli actor-director Ishai Golan shines as Sarah’s husband David, and completing the outstanding main ensemble is the divine Maisa Abd Elhadi as Saleem’s wife Bisan. Smaller roles are all perfectly cast, and delivered by actors who comfortably inhabit their characters, and the world of the Alayans’ vision.

Cinematographer Sebastian Bock beautifully shoots both cast and Bashar Hassuneh‘s subtle production design, which ensures that Jerusalem is herself a character in the story.

This is film at its best.

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem is currently screening at PalaceNova Eastend only. Click here for show times.

Gripping, beautiful and thought-provoking 5 stars

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