In ‘Dog Days’ Eyas Salman shows the layers of frustration

Saleh Bakri and Tarek Copti star in the short film "Dog Days," directed by Eyas Salman

Saleh Bakri and Tarek Copti star in the short film Dog Days directed by Eyas Salman

The short film Dog Days (2009) opens with an aging father calling for his son as they walk up the street in Nazareth. Abu Noor hands his son his case to carry and then walks past him up the hill, complaining and cursing. When he asks if Noor has finished his homework, the young man replies that he has been finished with school for eight years.

“Really? Good! Why don’t you have a job then?” the father asks, ignoring the fact that unemployment for Arabs in Israel is high.

As the film (written by Tamer and Eyas Salman) continues to unfold, we see Noor consumed by the expectations of his father and frustrations of the life of young Palestinians in Israel. These are the Arabs who didn’t leave the country when the modern State of Israel was created in 1948.

Father and son share a lonely existence in a flat on the bottom floor of a building. Noor spends his days caring for his father and taking care of the house– doing dishes, waiting on his father, and hanging laundry diminishes his masculinity in a traditional patriarchal culture. He flirts with a neighbor woman by offering her a glass of water as she walks by. Their roles have been reversed; she is independent and heading somewhere while he is tied to house and family.

Noor’s sense of self is also erased by his obligation to care for his father. In Palestinian culture, it is still common for families to care for the elderly at home rather than putting them in nursing homes; this is partially due to economics, but it is largely cultural–family is the most valuable thing a person can have and older people are valued members of the community.

As Abu Noor’s memory weakens, his demands get worse and Noor becomes paralyzed by the constant demands. Their lives are an endless loop of the mundane. Noor hears his father’s voice in his dreams: “Come. Sit. Take. Bring. Sit. Go. Wait. Move.”

For Noor, his father becomes not only a burden, but also a reminder that his life is continually put on hold. Abu Noor tells a story about taking private music lessons in Haifa as a young man and being questioned by the military. While the military commander let him go, Abu Noor gave up music. His point is that life has always been hard for the Palestinians and that Noor’s generation isn’t suffering anything new. But, Noor hears a different message. His father was about the same age as Noor when he gave up his dreams. Noor hasn’t even allowed himself to dream, but after his father tells his story, Noor decides he must change his life even if his father pays the price.

In a few short minutes, the film shows the shifting attitudes of young Palestinians–young men and women who are seeking lives and identities of their own, lives not completely tied to family, land, and tribe.

Tarek Copti, who plays Abu Noor in the film, speaks eloquently about the importance of both identity and filmmaking for Palestinians. “…so cinema is a very important art for us as Palestinians. It’s a window we see the world through.”

Saleh Bakri says he is interested in playing roles that are character-driven rather than mechanical. He is the son of actor-director Mohammad Bakri and, like his father, has chosen projects that give dignity to the Palestinians. He describes working on projects with Israeli and Palestinian groups and being interested in the story they can tell together.

The film’s director Eyas Salman was born in Nazareth and studied filmmaking at Tel Aviv University. He has written and directed several short films and recently edited the feature film Omar, directed by Hany Abu-Assad and featured at 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

The short interview clips in the article are from the Doha Film Institute website. “In ‘Work in Progress,’ the first ever video portrait collection of iconic and emerging filmmakers and actors from the Middle East, Marian Lacombe joined her sister Brigitte Lacombe to travel the world through film.” The whole site is worth spending time on and exploring the stories of different filmmakers and actors from around the world.

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