culture / Palestine
Headaches, Private and Political
Pepe Egger - 05/09/2011
The original title of Andoni's film in Arabic is suda', headache, an auto-biographical, unnerving, persistent, real headache, that prevents the director from making films, or writing them. There is little hope for a cure. And probably Andoni does not think, by making a film about his headache, that he can cure it, rather, his film is a desperate way to externalise it and share it, to break out of the prison of pain that a headache can become, (and maybe pass it on?) As might be the case with patients suffering from inexplicable headaches, the pain takes on qualities of a persona, and if the headache cannot be stopped, or cured, the sufferer might be tempted to try to at least get back at it; to retaliate, in some way. In this so personal and intimate space exists 'Fix me'.
Of course, we don't get a headache from watching; on the contrary, we are touched and intrigued, as we are introduced to the director's solitude, voluntary and involuntary, his family, his friends, comrades, or former comrades, his strangely inconclusive sessions with an analyst, in short, to scenes of Palestinian daily life at the beginning of the 21st century.
The same searching openness and inconclusiveness of the sessions between filmmaker-patient and his analyst, can be ascribed to the film, too. The editing, and the filming is done with the most subtle humour of an (apparently) humourless person, like a bitter joke told with a straight face. Of course, we don't expect the headache to develop into a plot; then it wouldn't be a headache anymore. Perhaps what it marks, and what is at the centre of it, is a lack of development, or arrested development due to the stagnating and arrested time, marked by a headache and marking a headache. All along the film, there is the temptation to turn the headache into a metaphor, or to ask what of this headache is a bigger, national Palestinian headache, or what is it about Palestine that gives headaches. The therapeutic sessions, twenty of which Andoni filmed in the most inobtrusive way, circumnavigate the question of how one, and in this case, the film maker, might fit in, might position himself, within this famliy, this society, this place.
What emerges in this way, indirectly and subtly, is an intriguing search for the 'now in the Palestinian history, and the Israeli occupation, that presumably creates this national headache, or at least provides the background for it, is the main, absent, character in the film. It causes the destruction of lives, the crushing political disillusionments and the time spent in prison, the waiting in the queues to pass checkpoints designed to waste time (millions of hours of collective Palestinian time wasted in a car queue at a checkpoint.) In one scene, through a demonstration against the wall in Bil'in, the occupation becomes most tanglible, shooting teear gas, while filmmaker's nephew's political engagement is examined, and the need not to let the occupation take hold - even through the resistance against it - of his whole life. Still, against this bitter background, there is beauty, and beautiful shots, but more than anything else, there are beautiful moments of human encounter, where a life, or the will to resists that makes life possible and gives it its form, is expressed in a smile and a question: 'Look at me, I am 50 years old, and spent my whole life between prison, Betlehem and Beit Sahour. I've never been further than Jericho. What do you think?' asks a friend. Thus Andoni's private headache, and his search for a personal position, are transcended, so that they reflect and show the social and the political around them, like the other side of a spoon.