6 November 2012 | smshamma
Follow the sun and you will find home, his dad said. Follow the sun he did.
Eleven-year-old Tarek grows restless at Harir camp in Jordan, as the days go by with no sign of return and no sign of his father. A conversation with an old woman, who tells him she's been waiting to return for 20 years, pushes him to take his destiny into his own hands and find his way back home, following his father's directions.
With that in mind, this curious free spirit sets off on a journey on his own, eventually finding himself in the midst of an army. An army of freedom fighters, training under the command of Abu Akram, in the hopes of one day getting their land back.
Annemarie Jacir breaks all boundaries with her second feature-length film, When I Saw You. The award-winning director brings us a story set in Jordan in 1967 about a mother and her child, who have fled across the border from Palestine to find refuge at a camp. Jacir brings together a unique set of characters, each with their individual eccentricities, quirks and traits to form what must be one of the best cast ensembles in a film of this magnitude.
I felt such happiness watching this film. Watching this young child on the screen, with his big, beautiful eyes, full of question and wonder, made me hope for more, made me want more. He did not take "no" for an answer, and he did not give up. He made me nostalgic for our days of innocence and optimism, when we thought anything was possible. When we still held on to our beliefs and values, when faith was strong within us, when we thought we could change the world if only we tried. When we still believed that good exists in the world. That, to me, is what Tarek represented in this film. Purity, innocence, but most of all
I loved him so much, I remember sitting there in the dark theatre and leaning sideways to whisper to my friend, "I am going to name my son Tarek one day, and he will be as brilliant as this kid." To tell the story of Palestine from the perspective of a child is the most unique and creative twist I've experienced in years. The effect is akin to The Book Thief or The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas, where a story as old as time is being seen through the lens of a child. This is a film with an 11-year-old as its protagonist – and who knew that an eleven-year-old had such a sarcastic and unique sense of humour? Clever, charismatic, witty, funny and quirky, with an odd gift with numbers, he is the perfect combination.
The rest of the characters are just as memorable, with Tarek's mother, Ghaydaa, being the epitome of strength and resilience, standing by her son, until the very last moment. Layth, attractive and a flirt, takes Tarek under his wing. Then there is Abu Akram, the leader of the group, training them hard and sharing his wisdom in the form of famous quotes.
Jacir has made outstanding choices with this film. The combination of characters, music, scene selection and storyline makes this film very memorable. One you will be talking about long after you've watched it, especially given its open-ended finish, in which we are left with a choice: should we hope for the best, or expect the worst?