(Palestine, Tunisia & Netherlands, 2008, 71 min)
By : Rashid Masharawi
Screens: Sunday, March 14th, 7:30pm
Showing the confusion, frustration, absurdity, and coping mechanisms of life in contemporary Ramallah through the eyes of a taxi driver, wry, comic drama Laila's Birthday is strong political entertainment leavened with finely tooled irony. The protagonist is former judge Abu Laila who is forced by financial considerations to drive his brother-in-law’s cab. A proud intellectual with a by-the-book sense of law and order, Abu is constantly aggrieved by the chaos and lack of courtesy that surrounds him. From passengers not fastening their seatbelts to disputes over smoking in the cab, Abu survives the course of one long day, as a series of passengers and their destinations highlight internal Palestinian political divisions and persistent problems caused by Israel. Although symbolizing something more serious, these encounters feature sardonic dialogue and excellent comic timing. By the film’s pitch-perfect ending, Abu isn’t exactly ready to accept Allah’s justice over situations that are created by man, but he’s become more skilled in the art of accommodation.
Director of several award-winning features and documentaries, Rashid Masharawi was born and raised in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. A painter and installation artist as well as director, he made his feature debut with 1993's Curfew, which won the UNESCO Award at Cannes. His credits include Haifa (1996), Ticket to Jerusalem (2002), and Waiting (SFIFF 2006), as well as documentaries Long Days in Gaza (1991) and Live from Palestine (2003). In 1996 he founded the Cinema Production and Distribution Center, which offers workshops to Palestinian youth and sponsors the Mobile Cinema Project, bringing film screenings to refugee camps.