Film Review: The Syrian Bride
Directed by Eran Riklis, The Syrian Bride casts a spotlight on the ongoing territorial dispute between Israel and Syria within the context of a bride-and-groom-to-be from opposite sides of the border as they attempt to hold a simple wedding ceremony. And as if even the simplest wedding ceremony weren't emotionally charged enough, the marriage between Mona and Tallel is overshadowed not only by international politics, but by family politics as well.
In the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Mona's Pro-Syrian father Hammed Salman has been recently released on parole with a standing warrant that prohibits him from crossing the border into Syria. Her brother Hattem, who is married to a Russian woman, has been outcast from the family for the past eight years, and is now prohibited from attending the wedding. Her playboy brother Marwan has been jilted by Jeanne, a UN liaison acting as a neutral go-between for the two families at the border offices. Her sister Amal is unhappily married to Amin, a domineering husband who has forbidden her to go back to school to train as a social worker. Her niece Mai has been seen keeping company with her Pro-Israeli boyfriend. And on the other side of the border, her groom, an actor that she knows only from his television sit-com, is traveling to the wedding by bus... And the whole convoluted convergence hangs on a single rubber-stamp on Mona's passport.
The Syrian Bride stars Makram Khoury and Clara Khoury, a real-life father and daughter, as Mona Salman and her father Hammed. Supporting cast includes Eyad Sheety and Ashraf Barhom as her brothers Hattem and Marwan, and Hiam Abbass as her sister Amal. The film was shot on location in two villages in and around Galilee, Israel, one pro-Syrian and one pro-Israeli, and since filming was prohibited at the actual Israel-Syria border, a replica of the site had to be constructed for the film. The subtitled script includes dialogue in English, Hebrew, Russian and French. The Syrian Bride was well received at film festivals around the world, where director Eran Riklis was honored with several awards for Best Director and Best Film.
The Syrian Bride is a cinematic treatise on the status quo of the decades-old struggle for dominion over a small but controversial geographic region. Yet, with its compelling cast of characters, this politically charged film stays diligently focused on the microcosm of one family, all the while illuminating how the ongoing conflict shapes every aspect of daily life. And what better symbol than a bride-to-be in her elegant white dress amid a barren landscape, waiting in tenuous hopes of marrying her groom, who awaits on the other side of the barbed wire, just beyond her reach.