Daily Recco, January 27: Sand Storm is the caffeine fix for your mind and soul
A stinging social commentary on the issues that are ubiquitous across cultures, Sand Storm by Elite Zexer provokes you to sit up and think of the liberties you take for granted.
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With the access to world cinema opening far and wide, thanks to the OTT platforms, the OTT originals have gained an edge and are bringing out the best in the art there is. From comedy to drama to social issues, the universe of OTT originals has a rich plethora of genres to offer. Israeli filmmaker Elite Zexer’s maiden venture — Sufat Chol or Sand Storm (2016) in English — falls in the category of stinging sharp social commentary that you can relate to, be it Israel or India. And the credit for that goes to the director’s sensitive portrayal of social issues that are ubiquitous across cultures.
The story is set in a Bedouin village in southern Israel. The Arabic film opens with Suliman (Hitham Omari) teaching his 18-year-old daughter, Layla (essayed by Lamis Ammar) to drive in the desert and being disappointed with her grades. Fairly commonplace, you’d say till the shot moves to them switching places on reaching the villages, ostensibly because women aren’t allowed to drive. It is here that the first whiff of patriarchy hits you. The film then moves to the shot of wedding preparations by Jalila (Ruba Blal), Layla’s mother, for her husband’s second wedding. She welcomes the new bride ineffectively hiding her resentment.
As life in the Suliman household becomes complicated with two wives and their unmet expectations, there is an additional arc of Layla’s relationship with Anwar (Jalal Masrwa) and the stiff opposition to it.
Suliman comes across as a fairly progressive father — teaching his elder daughter to drive, encouraging her education and letting her wear makeup. His younger daughter wears jeans in a culture where women (young and old) are to wear dresses. However, the men, as it stands, are as oppressed by the Holy Book as the women, and are trapped in the fear of ostracism in a society where being looked down upon by the kin could be the biggest blow to the male ego, as Suliman demonstrates effectively. From patriarchy to sexism, to polygamy, to misogyny, to the cultural domination of “progressive” men by socio-religious norms, the film has it all. It deals with myriad hues of social and institutional tyranny that prevalent in society — from the Middle East to Mumbai and all around the world. The global relatability factor stands as the film’s biggest win.
The film bagged the Grand Jury award at 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the Best Film at the Ophir Awards.
Watch Sand Storm on Netflix. It is the midweek caffeine fix for your mind and soul.