The Milky Way
Directed by Ali Nassar
The Milky Way
In 1964, a small Arab village in the Galilee, the villagers living under military rule must cope with the delicate coexistence of social ritual and deep, unhealed wounds. In the 1948 war of Israeli independence, many of the Palestinian villagers were killed or forced away from their homes and loved ones. Among those left behind is the childlike Mabruq (Suheil Haddad), who lost his parents near the Lebanon border. He grows up on handouts, constantly searching for affection, and acts the Village Fool. The metalsmith Mahmmud (Muhammad Bakri), a spirited and compelling character in the village, is one of the few people who sincerely cares about Mabruq.
The village is fiercely ruled by the Muktar (Makram Khoury), who fundamentally serves the interests of the Israeli Military Governor (Yussef Abu Warda), instead of those of his own people. These are tough times for the villagers -- some are bitter and spiteful, while others are weary of the power struggles. The narrative centers around such incidents as the military commander's discovery that one of the villagers is issuing forth work permits, and the killing of Mukhtar's son.
These points of plot, however, are secondary to the informative details which make The Milky Way a rich, knowing portrait of a world filled with humor and cruelty, derailed dreams, and small sensual pleasures. The rangy and reserved Mahmmud pokes his head flirtatiously through the classroom window of the village schoolteacher, chiding her for the politically utopian songs she passes along to her young students. Mabruq and a gaggle of boys play raucous games that mimic the everyday reality of the adults, staging mock trials which make the harsh military rules seem nonsensical. Several times in the film, Mabruq shares tenderly romantic looks with the orphaned Jamilah (Mihaela Mitraki), another badly damaged innocent he recognizes as a kindred spirit. The two are emblematic of life in this village, where brutal realism and impossible poetry are intimate neighbors.
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