Tale of the Three JewelsFrom Palestinian writer/director Michel Khleifi, writer/director of the well-received Wedding in Galilee, comes Tale of Three Jewels, which, when filmed in 1995, was the first feature film ever to be filmed in the Gaza Strip. It was made only days after the Hebron Masacre, and the location for shooting proved incredibly apt as shooting actually had to be transferred to a set only two days into filming, as Israel’s subsequent curfew made location shooting impossible. I say this makes the location for this film especially apt because of the portrayal of violence, armed guards and curfews in the film itself. Sometimes art reflects art… and sometimes art reflects life.

But Khleifi’s film doesn’t focus on the violence. In fact, the violence surrounding the story serves only as a backdrop for the innocence and naivete of the film’s lead: the young dreamer, twelve year old Yussef. And though Mohammed Nahnal is no old hand at film acting, he endows Yussef with very realistic and endearing qualities that make him easy to watch. We find out quickly that Yussef tends to wander around dreamily and one day while doing so he meets the charming gypsy girl Aida. Oddly enough, he confesses his love to her almost immediately and tells her that he wants to marry her when they grow up. She seems agreeable with the idea, but tells him that her dying grandmother has a necklace with three missing jewels that the man who can marry her must first locate… the only trouble is, that these jewels are in South America. So begins Yussef’s quest to get himself to South America in order to find the jewels and ensure his future wit Aida. And he begins his quest so quickly that he never stops to question whether or not Aida is telling the whole truth.

Yussef isn’t completely familiar with South America (where it is or how to get there), and it’s hard enough getting through the border patrol just to get into the city to talk to a travel agent. Yussef doesn’t make much headway here and hatches a plan with his best friend to stow himself in a crate of oranges and be shipped away to America for free. From here the story becomes a little less clear and a lot more imaginative. Tale of Three Jewels is an adventure story that takes place mainly in the daily life of a boy, but Khleifi bestows a great amount of symbolism into this adventure, layering the story to make it richer and deeper than it might seem at first. It’s no wonder that the film garnered Official Selection at director’s Fortnight at the Cannes International Film Festival. As is inevitable, some of the dialogue is lost in translation (Arabic & Hebrew with English subtitles) but there’s still a solidly interesting story here.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: An imaginative look at young love
Stay Away if: “Lost in translation” to you means you’re hitting fast forward and reading the subtitles

To purchase Tale of Three Jewels, visit Amazon or Arab Film Distribution 

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