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Laura Blum


Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for filmfestivals.com. She also publishes on Thalo

 


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Tribeca's Blast of "Holy Air" and Why Director Shady Srour is a Talent to Watch

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” wondered Christ disciple Nathaneal in the Gospel of John. Reframing that question in the context of present-day Israel, Nazarene writer-director-star Shady Srour has retained biblical skeptism in his debut feature Holy Air. But also wicked humor. As Philip told Nathaneal, “Come and see.”

Srour plays Adam, a world-weary accountant who lives with his wife Lamia (Laëtitia Eïdo) in Nazareth. As Christian Arabs in Israel and the Middle East, they come by their plot reversals honestly. Add to that the character shadings that make them progressive thinkers, searching souls and concerned world citizens, and their odds of encountering daunting setbacks increase exponentially. So when Lamia discovers she’s pregnant – call it Nazareth’s latest Annunciation -- the challenge is on to provide for the future life despite the omens stacked against it.

For Adam this means quitting his job at a corrupt accounting firm and launching a business. This being the Holy Land, his best bet is merchandizing religious kitsch. And air being the only commodity he can reliably procure as a minority citizen, his product is bottled “holy air.” Lucky thing the stream of foreign tourists can provide a ready market. But first, as a priest tells him during confession, Adam must rally the unholy trinity governing the Nazareth firmament: the Jewish Israeli Minster of Trade, the Muslim mafia capo and the local Vatican rep.

Is selling air just the latest of what NGO exec Lamia calls Adam’s “crazy ideas”? Certainly, nothing is guaranteed in this precarious part of the world, as the characters’ obsession with probabilities underscores. There’s a 50 percent chance Lamia’s fetus will survive, the doctor (Yussuf Abu-Warda) tells her, and the same odds of success go for the treatments Adam’s father (Tarek Copty) is receiving for cancer. Or take the figure Lamia cites for “women in Arab society who don't reach sexual climax”: a whopping 90 percent. The string of statistics, like a secular rosary, offers these moderns a sense of comfort and control. Sometimes good things just happen: Adam’s commercial prospects seem to brighten with the Pope’s upcoming visit to Israel. Too bad war breaks out to literally bring things crashing down.

The story continues here:

http://www.thalo.com/articles/view/1318/tribeca_spotlight_director_shady_srour_breathes

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