“The Reports on Sarah and Saleem”

Power and Privilege

Amos Lassen

Muayad Alayan’s Palestinian drama “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem” is, in his own words, about  “an extramarital affair in Jerusalem that ignites a dangerous game of deceit between those who hold power and those who don´t”).

Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) is a Jewish café owner in West Jerusalem and is married to David, a colonel in the Israel Defense Forces and have a young daughter.  She is known for  closing up her shop because of her husband´s relocations. Now David is waiting for a promotion and this means that they will be moving once it comes through.

Arab Saleem (Adeeb Safadi),  lives in East Jerusalem and works in West Jerusalem delivering bakeries. His low-paying job is a problem since his wife Bisan will soon give birth to their first child. Bisan´s brother is helping them make ends meet while Bisan hints she is studying. Saleem feels emasculated in  his conservatively-gender-stereotypical environment, and Sarah is frustrated with her distance husband and has too much work on her hands. These feelings from both of them lead them into the back of Saleem´s van for sessions of steamy sex at dusk. There are no deep emotions attached and the sex is purely therapeutic reasons. This sexual hook-up is supposed to be temporary and insignificant, and they develop a secure routine. Saleem’s attemps to raise more money leads him to accept his brother-in-law’s offer to smuggle items to Bethlehem late at night.

On one fateful night, Saleem cuts short the session with Sarah because of a delivery. Sarah decides to accompany him, and while being aware of the bad combination of Arab and Jew and Bethlehem, she tries to pose as a European tourist. A conflict with a local emerges after he adamantly hits on Sarah and Saleem loses his temper.

As soon as the secret affair crashes with the politics of the territory, the film becomes a political thriller and social drama about the history of the region and the current stereotypes controlling it, such as racism. A friend of Sarah´s, for example, does not care she is cheating on her husband, but on the fact she is cheating with an Arab.

Muayad and Rami Alayan are brothers who made the film. They unite  arthouse drama and a political thriller shrouded as an illicit affair. The dramatic plot, street action and a suspicion of treason included, builds up suspense and pulse-racing rhythm. Rami Alayan, who wrote the screenplay succeeds in weaving all the local particularities into the script without  trying to school the audience.

In the end, whatever the two of them may have felt, the weight of other people’s imagination is sufficient to do the damage. Because it’s not just about the fact that they’re married to other people – it’s about the fact that she’s Israeli and he’s Palestinian.

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