By Don Simpson | August 13, 2010
Director: Annemarie Jacir
Writer: Annemarie Jacir
Starring: Suheir Hammad, Saleh Bakri, Riyad Ideis
Born in Brooklyn, Soraya (Suheir Hammad) travels to Palestine to collect her deceased grandfather’s bank account and visit Jaffa where her grandparents were exiled from in 1948. Salt of this Sea opens with Soraya’s arrival to her grandparents’ homeland and the harsh and suspicious realities that she encounters with the Israeli guards at airport customs because of her Palestinian ancestry. After relentless questioning and a strip search, Soraya is permitted to enter.
Soraya hits several other literal and figurative roadblocks. Because she has an Arab name and holds a U.S. passport, as well as her apparent frustration every time her travels are hindered, Soraya is treated like a criminal. After being informed by her grandfather’s bank that his money was “lost” (stolen by Israel) during the 1948 war, Soraya’s anger and frustration with the modern day situation in Palestine escalates.
Feeling marginalized by figures of authority, Soraya bonds with Emad (Saleh Bakri) who decides to join Soraya in her search for freedom. They find themselves faced with only one real option: become the criminals that the authorities already suspect they are. With the assistance of Emad’s friend Marwan (Riyad Ideis), they commit one crime which provides the trio with enough wealth, confidence and freedom to travel to Jaffa in order to find the homes of their families. The key to their survival in Jaffa is to hide their Arab-ness under the guise of being English-speaking Jewish Americans and Canadians on holiday. (As part of his disguise, Emad wears a t-shirt with the slogan: “America don’t worry, Israel is behind you.”)
Written and directed by Palestinian filmmaker (and founding member of the Palestinian Filmmakers’ Collective) Annemarie Jacir, Salt of this Sea is a poetic meditation on the trials and tribulations of modern day Palestinians. Jacir intelligently highlights the sheer ridiculousness of the Israeli occupation; a situation in which Palestinians are treated as refugees and criminals within the borders of their ancestral homeland solely because of their ancestry.