Being a bride is never easy, but being betrothed to a Syrian, in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights is doubly hard. The bride is neither an Arab or Jew, she’s part of small monotheistic religious community called the Druze. They exist in the regions where Lebanon, Syria and Israel borders mix. The area has been in dispute since the formation of Israel. Currently, Israel controls the area. Anyone leaving to marry someone in Syria, becomes a Syrian citizen and isn’t allowed back into the country. This in itself would seem like the basis of a strong movie but The Syrian Bride combines the political complexities of the Israeli occupied territories with an equally challenging family drama.
The bride of the title is Mona (Clara Khoury), the much beloved youngest daughter and sibling of the family. Full of strong personalities, her family is led by her father Hammed (Makram Hkoury) who was recently a political prisoner of the Israelis. Amal (Hiam Abbass) her strong older sister is in a loveless marriage but has held the family together during her father’s absence. Her two older brothers round out the family: Marwan (Ashraf Barhom) is a womanizing huckster and Hattem who was the star of the family but was cut off when he left for Russia and married a woman there. Each family member has a rich back story and are played wonderfully. Abbass shines above them all as this is one of her finest performances.
Mona is to marry Syrian Druze Tallel (Dirar Suleiman). He’s a popular TV actor but the two have never met. Their story is one of the quieter ones in the film. Director Eran Riklis has done an incredible job of balancing the various stories to give an insightful look into a family of Golan Heights. Despite the complicated if not banal bureaucracy of the border and the complex family threads, this is a film is about pushing forward when it’s the obvious thing to do. Perhaps this should be required watching on both sides of that Syrian/Israeli border.
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