Even in the darkest of spaces, love can shine brightly and change the room.
Set in modern day Gaza, Gaza, Mon Amor tells the story of Issa, a sixty-year-old fisherman who has never settled down. However, his life changes dramatically when he meets Siham, a woman who works in the market with her adult daughter Leila. Instantly struck by her, Issa lacks in confidence to pursue a relationship. What’s more, when he discovers an ancient statue of Apollo in his fishing nets, Issa is confused by what to do with the phallic image. Deciding to bring the statue home with him, Issa soon begins to have a piece of his heart rekindled. As forces begin to conspire to obtain the statue, so too does Issa’s confidence begin to grow and he decides to lean into his newfound courage and desire for romance.
Directed by brothers Arab and Tarzen Nasser, Gaza, Mon Amor is a stirring, romantic and often hilarious film that serves as both love letter and challenge to a nation in turmoil. Having grown up in the Gaza Strip themselves, the Nassers have the experience to point to the issues of the larger culture while highlighting the lives of people who are struggling to survive. Torn apart by war and under the watchful eye of the police, the residents of Gaza are under constant fear of arrest for perceived threats towards the powers that be.
Though, this is ultimately not a film about politics.
Instead, Gaza uses its setting as a backdrop to celebrate the ways that life continues to spark amongst the people of the area. Rooted in a true story of the discovery of an ancient statue in the waters offshore, the film is a testament to the different types of love that can bloom in the midst of oppression. Love between a parent and child, between friends over a drink and, of course, romantic passion are all given moments to shine as every relationship becomes a beacon of hope in a place of dryness.
Interestingly, it’s fascinating that the statue in question is the Greek god, Apollo. As the god of love, the arrival of Apollo’s form inspires change in Issa’s life. For him, the statue is both intrusive to his life and intriguing to his soul. After pulling the piece out of the water, Issa understands instantly that the image’s graphic sexuality will be viewed as offensive. Even so, he remains drawn to its beauty and power. Hiding it away in his closet, he knows there’s something special about it yet fears what that could mean when discovered by others.
At the same time, as he pursues his potential relationship with Siham, his love becomes a form of rebellion against the pressures of the culture. Led by his love for Siham, Issa’s view of the world begins to change. Part of his soul is unlocked and he begins to love more freely. Carrying around the statue’s broken genitals, Issa continues to grow in confidence regarding his desire to find love. (An example of this comes when his sister insists that she find a ‘suitable’ woman for him throughout the more traditional means and Issa refuses, leaning into his newly romantic spirit.) Because of his interaction with Apollo, Issa begins to allow love to reshape the way that he interacts with his family, friends and the cultural systems themselves.
Because of the arrival of love, Issa is reborn.
Funny and honest, Gaza, Mon Amor never feels as though its attempting to ignore the difficulties and struggles of living in a place of conflict. However, by focusing on the relationships that mark the people of the city, Gazainstead chooses to tell a story that is equally is powerful. Although there are systems in place that strive to keep people under their control, Gaza, Mon Amor serves as a reminder that love cannot be contained and always shines in the darkness.
To hear our interview with director Arab Nasser, click here (YouTube) or here (audio).
Gaza, Mon Amor is now available on VOD.