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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Wajib is an intimate, well-played disquisition on what it means to be a Palestinian abroad versus a Palestinian at home. Real father-and-son duo Mohammad and Saleh Bakri handle the leads with their distinctive charismas intact — the older gentleman representing the realist negotiating the compromises necessary when you’re an Arab in Nazareth, the younger actor embodying the diasporic community who remain politically engaged yet naïve in their blinkered view of life back home.
Architect Shadi returns to Nazareth from Rome to help with preparations for the upcoming wedding of his sister Amal. Together with his divorced father Abu Shadi, a teacher, the two men drive around the city in an old Volvo, delivering invitations to all the people who must be invited. The film’s title translated as “duty,” and part of the tension between father and son comes from what this term really means. For the older man, the rituals of community are a duty to be performed in order to maintain cohesion and not lose traditions. His son finds the whole process meaningless, and gets especially angry when his father insists on inviting an Israeli whose job clearly is to act as a spy for the government. The son quickly tires of the whole invitation delivery ceremony, in which he’s shown off as a prize catch for families with eligible daughters, even though he lives with his Palestinian girlfriend back in Rome. This too becomes a source of contention: her father’s position within the PLO makes her suspect.
The Bakris, father and son, easily convey familial warmth but also exasperation: Abu Shadi’s genial yet sly demeanor rubs against his son’s annoyed righteousness. Their interplay gives depth to the intergenerational conflict, though the film really gets its bite towards the end, when a well-written argument finally strips away the respectful niceties and excuses to reveal the fundamental difference in point-of-view between Palestinians living in Israel and those émigrés whose political stances don’t always jive with the reality on the ground.