Kamel and his family are Bedouins. They live in small shacks, somewhere in the Negev, on land that has belonged to the family for decades. One day, Kamel returns home to find a demolition order from the Israeli authorities. While his brother becomes more and more angry at the situation, Kamel silently continues his everyday life: he is a security guard at Be’er Sheva bus station. But he knows – the day of demolition will come. The little that is spoken in Sharqiya brings out the Bedouins’ helplessness in two ways. Firstly, it seems that nothing can be said to change the situation. Secondly, words are not what count in light of the Israeli authority. What Kamel and his family need is proof that the land is theirs. But Bedouins have never cooperated with any authority, for their homeland is the desert, and they do not accept the concept of an imaginary line separating this entity into the countries of Egypt and Israel. And when there is no proof, and resistance is not an option in light of the imbalance of power, then there is only one way to go : to stand up again, and again. When the houses are crushed under the tractor, to rebuild them. Surely this is the most silent, and most difficult form of resistance – to keep going, however many times you have to stand up again. Director Ami Livne’s debut film is as calm as his main protagonist. He offers us stunning images of the desert’s grandeur, of Kamel moving through the desert, of a way of living that is suddenly under threat. Sharqiya is a very slow-paced, honest film whose dramatic elements lie in the subtleties of what is not said, and the brutality of an impending fate. Ednan Abu Wadi, casted by Livne in the middle of the desert in the headlights of his car, gives a captivating performance as introspective, reserved Kamel. At Berlinale Talent Campus 2010, where Avi Livne pitched his film project, he said, “I try to look inside myself and at the same time I look outside at the world that surrounds me. I wish film making could be more like writing poetry.” With Sharqiya, Livne has written a calm, silent, and powerful piece of cinematic poetry. One with little words, a strong story and stunning images.
by Mara Klein