The Kite (2003)
Written & Directed by: Randa Chahal Sabag
This Lebanese movie portrays a Druze village near the border between Lebanon and Israel. The Druze faith, as I understand it, is closely related to Islam.
However there are some important differences. For example, the Druze faith includes a belief in reincarnation.We are drawn into the lives of Lamia, a beautiful 16-year-old girl, her mother, her aunts, and her beloved little brother. The men are on the periphery, making decisions that dictate women’s lives but seldom in the picture.
Lamia’s hand in marriage has been promised to her cousin Sami, who lives on the other side of the Lebanese-Israeli border. Their community was divided when land was annexed by Israel. Lamia’s portion of the community is separated from Sami’s by barbed wire fences, guarded by an Israeli military checkpoint which they are not allowed to cross. This boundary separates brothers, sisters and cousins. We see women gathered along the fence line, armed with megaphones, shouting to their estranged loved ones on the other side while Israeli soldiers listen and take notes. The conversations between women, broadcast over megaphones, is often off-color and hilarious and sometimes made me cringe. For example, a woman advertised her son’s sexual prowess to his intended bride’s family, making reference to his affinity for nanny goats. Ahem … 🙂
Watching this, we realize Lamia will have to cross this border to join her new husband, whom she’s never met. She will do it alone, as only new brides and the dead are allowed across, and she is unlikely to see her family again.
We alternate between her story and the lives of the Israeli soldiers who guard the checkpoint. One of them is Youssef, a young Druze physicist trying to fit in with his Jewish comrades at arms. He watches Lamia and hears her mother and aunts discussing her future over megaphones, and he comes to feel he “knows everything about her.” A spark of passion is kindled between the two teens. Then the movie becomes increasingly dream-like as it delves into the possibility of forbidden love in the midst of occupation.
This is a partly a movie about war and political oppression. It is clearly told from the Lebanese/Arab perspective; the Israeli side of the story isn’t explored. Nevertheless it is an eye-opening story about lives reshaped by shifting political boundaries and military intervention. It also explores the ways women assert themselves and exert control over their lives in a patriarchal society that gives them a narrow range of choices.
The film is full of vibrant imagery, much of which has a symbolic quality. As it reaches its climax, it becomes increasingly dream-like, so the images seem more real than the plot. When I think about this movie, images are what stick with me most clearly. I see the pure white of Lamia’s billowing wedding dress, as she makes her solitary trek across the border, and of the children’s white kites floating around the barbed wire fence. I see men’s boots filling the screen, bringing authority and emphasizing the divisions between people. And of course the ubiquitous guns and barbed wire. This is a story about innocence and love in a world carved up by ever-changing political boundaries, war, and violence.