It was one of those Friday Nights when the Ithaca weather was too chilly and staying in and watching a movie seemed more satisfying than getting all dolled up and going out. So, I warmed up some tea and stayed in bed hoping to watch a romantic comedy to pass the night; instead, I found myself watching a movie, which was funny in bits but had a greater social agenda attached to it – one that inspired this post. Before I blabber on, the movie I watched was When I Saw You written and directed by Annemarie Jacir. The movie was about a Palestinian boy who was forced to live in a Refugee camp in Jordan because of the Six Day War, and how he goes on a journey to look for his father. The concept of the story was terrific, but the story itself fell flat, and the ending left me confused and completely disappointed. The story had so much potential, because the characters had so much depth to them, but their stories were left incomplete: just like the movie. Despite that, cinematically it was beautiful, and the acting was beyond spectacular. The performances drove you to the verge of tears, without making you cry but managed to put a smile on your face instead.
It wasn’t a bad movie – NO! It was a great movie, but it was incomplete. I was unsatisfied. For a long time after I pondered my disappointment because I was genuinely touched by the movie. I kept questioning why I was upset with the movie until hitting my eureka moment half way in writing a review for it. I like every
hopeful individual felt that the story did no justice to the boy when in fact the story portrayed exactly what reality is. There was no false hope, no real tragic ending, just an open ended spectrum of possibilities that didn’t lead to any hopeful answers. I disliked the movie because it didn’t slam me with the ending of a tragedy nor a happy ending, but left me at a place where I felt like I was responsible to see that he got justice, and that’s when it hit me it wasn’t the movie that didn’t do justice to the boy; it’s the world that didn’t do justice to him.
War can be seen in so many ways, but seeing it through the eyes of a boy, the eyes of an innocent is much simpler to understand and sympathize with. From his eyes there was no bad guy, he didn’t have a greater agenda about land, or religion. All he wanted was to be in the comfort of his home, find his father, and return to his school back home. All simple things that he thought he deserved but couldn’t understand why they were stolen from him. The price of freedom in this world should be exactly what it mean: FREE. Yet we live in a world where our basic right is judged on the color of our skin, our nationality and our social standing. People will tell you that this was history, and that we study history with the agenda of not repeating it, yet we are so aloof that we don’t even realize that we are living it. How inconvenient is it to master the dates, events and causes of wars like a monologue, yet not be able to apply it to the present nor the future. What good is it to mourn injustice when we are watching it happen in front of us? A war is a war, and there is no justification for its negative ramifications. After all what good can come out of a war, when innocent lives were destroyed in the process?
In the end I re-read my initial criticism of the movie, and rewrote it to what I should have written in the first place. When I Saw You is a movie that aspires if not succeeds in breaking the stigma of religion in such a way, where you’ll see Tarek the Muslim boy, just as he should be seen. An innocent boy, an innocent human who has lost his childhood due to a war that is bigger than his little world of childish stubbornness. You’ll in the end see a boy, not a Palestinian, not a Muslim, just a boy who is suffering because he is caught up in war between two countries, two religions ironically fighting for ‘justice’ for ‘their’ people, and then you’ll think again when did people ever become his, mine or ours? Wasn’t being human enough to be loved and cared by all?
Serena Ansari is a sophomore TV-R major that writes impassioned manifestos on old film reels. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.