“HOLY AIR”— Remember When Water Was Free?

“Holy Air”

Remember When Water was Free?

Amos Lassen

Writer/director Shady Srour is Adam, a man who is thoroughly in love with his wife Lamia (Laëtitia Eïdo)but unfortunately he is just not a good businessman. He really needs money now more than ever as his wife is experiencing a difficult pregnancy and his father is gravely ill. Then are the small daily misfortunes he has as an Arab Christian in Nazareth. What Adam needs is a break. To his surprise, he finds one where he least expects it— on the biblical hilltop Mount Precipice. It is then that he sets out on a risky business venture—bottling the holy air and selling it to the city’s tourists.

Being an Arab Christian living in Israel already makes him a member of two minorities. Adam knows it will take a lot of work to get his new business going but he also has to deal with the complicated emotions that go into living as a modern, progressive family on the world’s most spiritual ground. There are challenging social crosscurrents that Adam will need to navigate to get his idea off the ground and these include Catholic capitalists, Jewish bureaucrats and Muslim gangsters. This quickly becomes a comedy about spirituality, ideology, and survival.

 

Arab Christians that live in Israel are a vanishing minority within a minority in Israel and the Middle East. Adam’s wife Lamia is a strong, beautiful and progressive Arab woman, who runs a foundation for women’s rights.

This is a very Israeli story that is told from the Arab point of view and it is a lot of fun. There is a lot of heart in the film. Adam tries to find his entrepreneurial calling but he has no luck until, he gets the idea to bottle the air and sell it to Israel’s tourists. Both the beginning and the ending of the movie are about traffic jams (and if you have ever been to Israel, you know what that means).

Lamia is a social worker and advocate who speaks on local TV about female sexuality with fervent, male-crew-flustering directness and she is successful while Adam seems to fail at everything he does. He feels no connection to the business he started with his go-getter partner, Mahmoud (Byan Anteer), who has long since left behind the leftist ideals of their student days. Without telling his wife or parents, Adam quits his job hoping to find something more fulfilling and inspiration in the form of bottled air soon hits him. He overheard the spiel of holy-site tour-meister Roberto (Shmulik Calderon) about Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary and Adam is soon busy climbing the rocky slope of Mount Precipice, where he “fills” handcrafted bottles from his father’s shuttered workshop with the blessed air.

With his facility for language, not to mention a consumer-friendly price point — “Only one euro!” — Adam finds his light-as-air answer to holy water selling like crazy and to the point where the local crime boss tries to squeeze him for protection money. Anticipating a surge in business during the pope’s upcoming visit, he sets out to forge a coalition with Nazareth’s Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders.

The idea of “selling air” reflects the lengths to which many go to earn a living. Throughout the film we sense a quest for balance and a sense of being caught between uncontrollable forces, in the characters’ predicaments.

George (Tarik Kopty), Adam’s father, is an old man with a beautiful face and a poet’s soul, and he burns brighter as a character the frailer he grows physically. Action with feeling come together as they do when, Adam and Lamia join forces with Adam’s mother, Widad (Dalia Okal), to quiet George’s squeak hospital bed, using cooking oil from Widad’s kitchen.

Quite basically this is memorable and confidently imagined human comedy.

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