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Dancing Can Be an Act of Treason in The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

Dancing Can Be an Act of Treason in The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

Here's some great dialogue from the new movie The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, between one of our protagonists and his boss, as our protagonist tries to get more money at work:

Boss: "You want me to cut hours from others and give them to you?"

Saleem: "What about a loan? I have unexpected payments and need money."

Boss: "Stop smoking. It's not good for you anyway."

Saleem: "I don't smoke."

Boss: "Too bad, you are missing out."

It's clever and a little flashy, the kind of thing you would hear in noir. Here's a better line of dialogue, also from Saleem, as he drives his delivery truck: "I have to turn right after the camp."

We're in Israel and Saleem marks his route by a Palestinian refugee camp. Saleem is Palestinian himself and he's having an affair with Sarah, an Israeli woman. They're both married, and neither seems to hate their current spouse. They're attracted to each other, they have sex and, like the camp, it isn't treated as a big deal. We don't hear any dramatic "Let's run away together" speeches.

The way director Muayad Alayan uses the real-world tumult in Israel is unique in that way-- it's just flavor, and it's a little bit of a roadblock for a Palestinian and an Israeli to be seen together in public. And then Sarah and Saleem actually do get seen together in public, dancing, driving to and from a bar, and that background tension sparks up dramatically, as onlookers assume something deeper is going on.

There's something lost at this point in The Reports, when Alayan moves toward recognizing the political ramifications of Sarah and Saleem's affair at the expense of the personal ramifications. Every movie set in Israel (at least the ones that get theatrical releases in the States) has to be about the big conflict, though. The lead actors, Sivane Kretchner and Adeeb Safadi, are to blame here, but it's because they're too good. They make the first half of the movie so interesting that when things turn more political, you wish the personal would keep getting screen time. The movie starts with the two main characters having sex in the back of Saleem's van, and you know everything's going to go downhill one scene later, when Sarah has breakfast with her family (including a husband in the military). It isn't a surprise that the movie becomes a political thriller. It's just a shock the affair itself is more interesting than what's coming.

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem opens in Philly theaters today.

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