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The Reports on Sarah and Saleem - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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The Reports on Sarah and Saleem
SIFF's capsule summary: "This engrossing psychosocial drama begins when a casual love affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man is exploited by the security forces of a divided Jerusalem, leading to a series of dangerous lies that could turn their illicit relationship into a political crisis.
    'The dramatic plot, street action and a suspicion of treason included, builds up suspense and pulse-racing rhythm' Martin Kudlac — Screen Anarchy" (Palestine–Netherlands–Germany–Mexico, 2018, 127 minutes)
SIFF link: The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

Sarah (Sivan Kerchner) is an Israeli woman who runs a coffee and pastry shop. Saleem (Adeeb Safadi) is a Palestinian delivery driver for a bakery that supplies Sarah's shop. And they're having an affair. It's strictly about the sex, other than a hint of developing friendship, so few people beyond Sarah's husband David (Ishai Golan), an Israeli colonel, and Saleem's wife Bisan (Maisa Abd Elhadi) should be concerned if the affair is discovered. But Saleem is already struggling financially, and Bisan is pregnant, so her brother Mahmood (Mohammad Eid) finds Saleem an extra job delivering cell phones to customers in Palestine. But a brief altercation in a Bethlehem dive bar comes to the attention of the Palestinian secret police, and Mahmood has to enlist the aid of the powerful "Abu Ibrahim" (Kamel El Basha) to make the secret police investigation go away, which is complicated because of Saleem's two degrees of separation from an Israeli colonel. A talented lawyer, Maryam (Hanan Hillo), gets involved in the mess, and she has a real challenge to resolve.

That's a lot of information, and it may sound like spoilers, but this is a 127 minute film, and that's all in the opening set-up to the plot.

8 Very Good This film was written by Rami Musa Alayan and directed his brother by Muayad Alayan. They usually write as a team, but this time the script was a solo effort. The story started out a bit slow; it took a while to establish all the details that set up the rest of the story. There are some further slow spots here and there through the middle of the film, which feel like they may have been meant to build tension in the script, but didn't quite pull it off in the finished cut. But the slow parts pay off in the end, which is full of suspense. I think the script is very good all the way through; the directing is good most of the way through and excellent near the end.

The acting is solid. Kerchner is very good. Safadi is good, and very good in scenes with Kerchner. Golan is hard to judge; in his role he's mostly remote and hard to read. Maisa Abd Elhadi is excellent, and although she has a supporting role, a lot of the most important scenes depend on her performance. Hillo has a small role, and she's very good. I didn't get much of an impression of other actors; collectively they were good.

The locations, sets, and art direction are very good. The soundtrack is very good too.

Overall, I rate the film very good.

Languages: Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles, and English.

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "R", for sex scenes (with obscured nudity), numerous expletives, and a small amount of violence.

Screening: 2 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, around 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "R" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 68 films (41 features, 27 shorts), 44 time slots, 5 parties. ("J": only three parties, and 20 shorts.)

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