“The Teacher”: Nabulsi's powerful portrayal of Palestinian struggle

The Teacher  Farah Nabulsi
(Photo: Twitter/X)
JEDDAH – "The Teacher," directed by Farah Nabulsi, unfolds a poignant narrative set in Occupied Palestine, exploring the challenges faced by a high school teacher and his students while navigating the Israeli occupation.اضافة اعلان

The film is notable for its authentic portrayal of life in the West Bank, offering a strong sense of place and capturing the realities of occupied territory.

The choice to shoot in the Occupied West Bank adds a layer of authenticity to the storytelling, and was inspired by the story of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held captive by Palestinian militants for five years in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Three years after the success of her short film "The Present," Farah Nabulsi returns with her feature debut, "The Teacher," a gripping portrayal set in Occupied Palestine. Inspired by true events, the film revolves around Basem El-Saleh (Saleh Bakri), a Palestinian schoolteacher navigating the complexities of

"The Teacher" bagged two awards, with Saleh Bakri receiving the Best Actor award and director Farah Nabulsi winning the Special Jury Award at closing ceremony of the Red Sea Film Festival, which held from November 30 to December 9, as it witnessed a remarkable Palestinian presence.

Nabulsi, while accepting the award on behalf of Bakri, hailed his "honesty" as his defining quality and acknowledged his position as one of the most prominent Arab actors of his generation.

Her passionate expression of solidarity with Palestine and a fervent plea to "end the genocide" resonated deeply with the audience at the Ritz-Carlton Theatre, eliciting the warmest and most enthusiastic response during the ceremony

This event highlights the growing recognition of Palestinian talent and their powerful stories on the international stage.

Masterfully crafted and directedFarah Nabulsi skillfully directs "The Teacher," aiming to illuminate the profound injustices faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The film delves into the heart-wrenching reality of demolished homes and exorbitant demolition fees, unveiling the complexities of Palestinian struggles.

Nabulsi portrays the harsh realities where Israeli judges deny justice to Palestinians and arrest youths engaged in anti-Israel protests. The narrative weaves the pain of the oppressed into the storyline, offering insight into their justification for resorting to violence amid persistent abuse.

The central character, portrayed by Saleh Bakri as Bazem, emerges as a hero, a teacher striving to shield students from arrest and harm. However, the multifaceted depiction of his character, encompassing roles like teacher, lover, father figure, and warrior, diverges from Hollywood conventions, bringing refreshing authenticity to the portrayal.

While certain elements, including the depiction of a kidnapped soldier and the ensuing drama with the parents, might seem weak, they serve a purpose in highlighting the cyclical nature of conflict. The film's conclusion, though impactful, leaves room for interpretation, inviting viewers to reflect on the narrative's progression.

Noteworthy performances by Mahmood Bakri and Muhammad Abed El Rahman, coupled with humor-infused dramatic scenes, elevate the film's standards. Gilles Porte's cinematography captures poignant moments with artistry, creating lasting impressions. The seamless collaboration of Mike Pike's editing, particularly during tense scenes, contributes to the film's overall aesthetic.

Excessive narrative threads
Despite a potentially extreme Western perspective on tragedy, "The Teacher" stands out as a beautifully detailed film, offering a nuanced portrayal of the perpetuating cycle of violence in the region.

The film's clarity is overshadowed by an excess of narrative threads, often delving into emotional and political realms that, instead of complementing each other, compete for attention. Despite good intentions, various factors hinder the film from realizing its full potential. Lisa's character lacks depth, and the romantic chemistry is minimal.

The film seems poised for BFI funding, a necessity for demonstrating British sovereignty through the inclusion of British double acts. Emotional moments are prevalent, but the impact diminishes over time. The narrative takes a political turn, reflecting the director's clear stance against the illegal occupation of Palestine. It unfolds the familiar conflict between good Palestinians and bad Israelis, presenting only two "good" Israelis—a lawyer and a soldier, which falls short for a profound study of war.

Despite its preachy tone, "The Teacher" successfully communicates unexpected messages, captivating the audience for nearly two hours. It navigates the complexities of anger as a justified response to injustice. The film touches on universal fears of failed parenthood, affecting both Palestinians and Israelis. However, a challenge lies in garnering more sympathy for the struggles of an Israeli figure compared to a Palestinian one.

Political synopsis
Nabulsi, in encompassing various aspects of the Palestinian struggle and Israeli aggression in her film, deliberately portraying the soldier as an American Israeli who has chosen to play the role of a soldier in the "promised land." This choice serves as a reminder that Israel's conflict with Palestine is a global endeavor. The film highlights the disparate treatment between citizens involved in other countries' wars and Israeli dual citizens, who receive recognition in both Israeli and certain international publications.

The portrayal of the soldier's parents may seem caricaturist, but given the prevalent caricaturish depictions of Palestinians and Muslims in European and American films, this aspect feels earned. In "The Teacher," Imogen Poots portrays a do-gooder British character, Lisa, bringing a welcome surprise. Her role, encouraging school boys to reintegrate into the classroom after time spent in Israeli "detention," adds depth to the narrative. The film delicately explores the budding romance between Lisa and Saleh Bakri's character, offering glimpses into the spaces where lovers in Palestine can share meaningful moments.

If the film feels like a documentary, it's because of its good manners and mileage. In the question-and-answer session after the film, Nabulsi said that during the film, the villagers came to put the olives in the oven, which was a very challenging film in the West Bank, and that the actors were also mistreated.

Documenting the ever-present destruction of the Palestinian people, the film is a unique tribute to the wonderful country and is accompanied by a magnificent score by Alex Baranowski.

Despite occasional preachy tones, "The Teacher" succeeds in conveying urgent messages and engages viewers emotionally. The film's heart is in the right place, tackling themes of anger, injustice, and the universal fears of failed parenthood

"The Teacher" stands as a meaningful and impactful film, showcasing the struggles of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. While facing some narrative complexities and occasional didactic tones, the film effectively communicates the urgent messages and emotional depth of its characters.

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