Movie review - The Syrian Bride

If you are reading this in April 2020, there's a good chance you're among the 2 billion people stuck inside right now to help contain the spread of the corona virus. It can be dull, but there is no better time than now to engage with high quality, thought provoking films! Green Olive is producing our own content, and you can should see our first short documentary about the history of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

We also have a whole series of movie reviews which can get you excited about what to watch.

The next film we want to highlight comes from 2004 - The Syrian Bride. The film is set in the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams. The population there mostly belong to the Druze ethno-religion and although occupied by Israel since 1967, largely remain loyal to the Syrian government. This on its own makes for a fascinating story (you can read our blog post about the Druze) and in many ways The Syrian Bride aims first and foremost to encapsulate the bizarre situation these people are in, straddling two very different worlds.

The plot revolves around half a dozen members of the same extended family coming together for the wedding an important Druze family's daughter to a groom who lives on the other side of the border. Each of the personalities highlight a different approach to the conflict, and have been chosen to represent the myriad of ways real people feel about the key political issues effecting the Golan. In this way the film tells many stories in one and does an excellent job of showing the audience this complexity.

Because of the poor relationship between Israel and Syria, Mona (the bride, played by Clara Khoury) will be allowed to cross the border just once. She will move to Damascus, just a few dozen kilometres away, and will never be allowed to return. This bizarre story is based on fact. From 1967 until today ordinary people are not able to cross the Israeli-Syrian border and the Druze, often from the very same families, living on either side are forced to deal with this surreal situation.

Each character is given just enough attention to make an audience empathise with them - a tricky task considering how many plot lines there are and how diverse each one is. Some viewers may find the story itself drags, as this is far from a Hollywood blockbuster, and there is a temptation to fast-forward to see how things resolve. But if you can resist the temptation, you will be rewarded.

That's because the real highlight of The Syrian Bride is its attention to detail. The film features a remarkable array of actors, all true to their character. In 90 minutes we hear people speaking Arabic, Hebrew, French, Russian and English, which all help paint a rich picture of the absurdities of the daily situation in Majdal Shams. The film really drums home two simple messages; that the bureaucracy of occupation is often just as disruptive to daily life as military oppression; and that most people just want to take care of their families and live their lives undisturbed.

This film is a must-see for anyone who has visited, or who dreams of visiting, the Golan Heights. For anyone with even a passing interest in the peoples of the Middle East it comes highly recommended. Even better, especially in these difficult times, the full film is available here, for free, with English subtitles. Let us know what you think in the comments below!


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