SIFF Cinema Uptown
511 Queen Anne Avenue North, Lower Queen Anne, Seattle
In the engrossing, ambitious follow up to his impressive debut (Love, Theft, and Other Entanglements, SIFF 2015), director Muayad Alayan continues his exploration of intimate relationships constrained by their political contexts.
In this case that context is Jerusalem, a city deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines. Sarah, an Israeli cafe owner, and Saleem, a Palestinian deliveryman, are having a casual affair that suddenly becomes something much more serious after a date gone wrong. When Saleem suggests that they stop for a drink at a bar in Bethlehem-a West Bank city under Palestinian authority-a suspicious local spots Sarah's Hebrew name pendant. The next day, Saleem is picked up by Palestinian security, accused of trafficking Israeli prostitutes; his lawyer proposes that Saleem is actually recruiting Sarah as a spy. Complicating matters further is that Sarah's husband is a colonel in the Israeli army. Soon, the lovers find themselves facing a difficult choice: clearing their names means revealing their relationship; preserving their secret entails dangerous lies. Either way, their decision will have consequences well beyond their individual marriages as their illicit relationship takes on international implications.