For politicians, a statement like “Our goal is to deliver community services first” is not a call to action. Not much in it David OsitDocumentary “mayorIs. But if Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah City in the West Bank, spoke these words during a meeting Donald TrumpIn his decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, he delivers these prosaic words with a surprisingly inspiring tone. He is responding to other city officials seeking to turn the city’s Christmas tree into a political statement against Trump. While Hadid speaks softly to a mistake, he emphasizes the need to focus on his job. He has his opinion on Trump. After all, that is an international condition. But deep down, his primary concern is to make sure Ramallah is a functioning church.
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As a deliberate kickback against the clichés of Israeli-Palestinian conflict reporting, “Mayor” is successful to a certain extent. Osit intentionally loads the film with calm montages of city life that have nothing to do with occupation, war, or terrorism. Instead, we see Parisian-style cafes, streets with Christmas lights, a nightclub with a flashlight, a music-synchronized water fountain that looks like a mini Bellagio, a fake cafe called Stars and Bucks, a meeting about communal branding, and what appears to be a generally wealthy and well-off being a quiet bourgeois town where Christians like Hadid celebrate their holidays with a family-friendly stickiness that will be very familiar to western audiences. An adorable segment at an over-the-top Christmas tree lighting celebration in the town square with fireworks, flash mobs, and Santa Clauses rappelling down walls like funny ninjas feels like a broadcast from a different planet than the bank shown in most Western documentaries.
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Osit doesn’t look beyond the city’s problems. Under the military occupation by Israel, the work of the residents of Hadid and Ramallah was halted with little outside help and considerable financial pressure. All common urban problems are exacerbated by the reality of checkpoints, security walls, intrusion into Israeli settlements (which some residents claim are polluting groundwater and burning down their olive trees) and constant raids. A problem with the sewer pipes cannot be fixed as the trucks cannot get through for safety reasons.
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When the embassy move was announced in December 2017, Osit Hadid followed into the city. They drive towards the clouds of smoke and crowds (“looks like a match up there in Barcelona,” murmurs Hadid) to see the dance of protesters and soldiers, stones and tear gas. Hadid is less concerned about the geopolitical impact of the embassy than about the damage the protests and raids against Ramallah could do. But as the film follows Osit in the months that follow, as the expected marches turn out to be less intense than expected, his stance changes from worry (“we are doomed to fail”) to pragmatic indifference (“it happens whether we freak out or Not”). ). Life and the city must go on.
Unsurprisingly, given his job and background as a civil engineer, Hadid’s day-to-day duties are centered around the city administration problem. When he saw a dumpster that someone had set on fire, he probably called the fire department in protest. But the unresolved tensions of the frozen peace process are pervasive. At a meeting with a German delegation, he expresses frustration at what he sees as yet another symbolic meeting of peace-building Israelis and Palestinians that will not lead anywhere. Osit accompanies Hadid in a short section in which he speaks about the problems of the city at various international locations and looks a little lost about the chances that someone will really listen to him. In a climatic area where Hadid is stuck in town hall while Israeli soldiers raid across the street and engage in the usual street-level exchanges (tear gas from them, stones from the locals), he is extremely resilient. Even so, he seems a little at a loss as to what to do.
Hadid is friendly and personable and has a dad-level affinity for technology (“Do you think I know how to do this?” He replies in disbelief when asked to livestream on Facebook) and a head-down duty which probably all adds to its street popularity in Ramallah. While Osit’s reticent style allows viewers to see Hadid in his natural element as a bureaucrat trying to do what’s right for people, he keeps the film from exploring further. In contrast to the other urban documentaries of the year – “The town hall, “”City so real,” and “Hamtramck, USA“-” Mayor “stays almost entirely out of the pressures of electoral politics, not to mention what it means to be a Christian leader in a city with such a large Muslim population. A more active approach to inquiry might have a more nuanced portrait and greater understanding, especially in light of the suggestion made here that Hadid could potentially use his popularity for a more significant role in the Palestinian government.
Although “mayor” sometimes withholds too much for himself, he remains a fascinating portrait of what urban politics looks like under extreme conditions. Trump may not always matter in the end. But the sewage definitely does. [B]