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Annemarie Jacir (#110 of 2)

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

For anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, society exchanges three fundamental things: words, women, and goods. Writer-director Annemarie Jacir explores those very objects of exchange in the most delicate of ways throughout Wajib. Although Amal (Maria Zreik) is getting married, neither her wedding nor the film itself is really about her. Both are about the men—her father, Shadi (Saleh Bakri), and her brother, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri)—in charge of making the delivery of the goods: that is, the woman, her gown, and the invitations for the ceremony. Abu Shadi has returned home to Nazareth from Italy specially for the occasion, and the expatriate's homecoming serves as an opportunity for all sorts of words to be exchanged between father and son—namely those that have been bottled up for so long, or at least since Shadi and Amal's mother left them to pursue a love story in America.

Los Angeles Film Festival 2013: Drug War, Purgatorio, House with a Turret, & When I Saw You

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Los Angeles Film Festival 2013: <em>Drug War</em>, <em>Purgatorio</em>, <em>House with a Turret</em>, & <em>When I Saw You</em>
Los Angeles Film Festival 2013: <em>Drug War</em>, <em>Purgatorio</em>, <em>House with a Turret</em>, & <em>When I Saw You</em>

Prolific Hong Kong action auteur Johnnie To performs a border crossing with Drug War, his first cops-and-criminals film shot and set in mainland China, and in some ways the filmmaker is stretching his legs with all that extra space at his disposal. We follow police captain Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei) as he teams up with repentant drug manufacturer Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) to dismantle Choi’s former syndicate and take down his associates, and the film feels perpetually in transit as they’re on the chase, moving from city to city, on the road and via train. Overall, the shift doesn’t mark a radical departure for To. There’s definitely a different relationship to space and the urban environment, a changing-up of textures and details, but it all feels like a familiar overarching trajectory.

For example, the fact that the film ends in a slaughterhouse of a shootout is hardly the stuff of spoilers, though much of the first half is rather bloodless, almost sedate, as Zhang and his team track down leads and put together pieces of the puzzle, procedural-style. It’s more about surveillance and analysis and interrogation than gun battles, and instead To sharply mines the tension of potential flashpoints of violence that never quite get there. In those situations Zhang feels like an archetypal supercop, with an unremittingly loyal and deferential team and the ability to cow anyone he speaks to through sheer force of will. He’s chasing adversaries that may be 10 steps ahead, but he’s got a long stride and a sixth sense.