Israeli Arab wrestles with grief, guilt in suicide bomb film

Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:50am EST
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By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - When Universal Studios took a disliking to the script for Ziad Doueiri's Israeli-Palestinian suicide bombing drama, the Lebanese director thought his career was over.

Six years later "The Attack" is garnering interest on the festival circuit, winning praise in Toronto, an award in Marrakech, and wowing audiences at the Dubai international film festival in the United Arab Emirates this week.

"When they got the script they rejected it, and they not only rejected it, they pulled the project and kept the script. We had a three-year legal battle to try and get it back," Doueiri, whose 1998 debut "West Beirut" drew praise at Cannes, said after a screening.

"I understand the sensitivity of the film and I knew at the start it had a lot of landmines along the way. We knew we were going to have people who oppose it on the Arab side and the Jewish side."

Now he has distribution in 40 countries including the United States for a dark love story where an Arab Israeli surgeon, Amin Jaafari, who is a model of successful integration in Jewish society is on a mission to find out if his wife Siham was the suicide bomber who killed 17 children at a birthday party.

In the opening scene he is honored at a ceremony for his work, offering platitudes in a speech about Arab and Jewish coexistence, the next day he is thrown into brutal detention as the suspect husband of a terrorist.

Eventually released after police realize he knew nothing about the attack, the surgeon, played with gripping understatement by Ali Suliman, begins to see that perhaps his wife of 15 years had done it after all.

He follows clues that lead to Nablus in the Palestinian territories where he finds Siham's posters plastered on walls as a martyr and locals treating him as a turncoat.   Continued...

(L-R) Director Ziad Doueiri and actors Karim Saleh, Ramzi Maqdisi and Ali Suliman attend a photocall following the screening of "The Attack" on the fifth day of the San Sebastian Film Festival September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent West