Personal Affairs Screen 5 articles

Personal Affairs

2016

Personal Affairs Poster
  • Predictably, turns out there isn’t that many in a police state. A series of well-staged droll vignettes around a checkpoint. Director Maha Haj worked with Elia Suleiman and this plays like Suleiman minus the bite.

  • The more political subplots work better than those focused on the family drama: one well-written scene shows the mechanic and his friends speculating about whether he'll play a terrorist in the movie, yet the quieter, more deadpan scenes of the parents ignoring each other tend to fall flat.

  • The dissatisfactions of three generations of an extended Palestinian family serve as the basis for a mild, occasionally trenchant narrative debut feature from Maha Haj, who has worked as a set designer for the Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman (“The Time That Remains”), among others, and shares her mentor’s taste for droll set pieces and gentle absurdity.

  • Maha Haj capably delivered a portrait of life for a family of Palestinians on both sides of the border with Israel in Personal Affairs, and the perils that can result when militarised border crossings mix with fractious domestic disputes.

  • Pupil-overtakes-the-master time, as I like this even more than my favorite Elia Suleiman film (The Time That Remains). He gets a big, isolated thank you in the closing credits, confirming my late-breaking speculation about his influence; turns out Haj actually worked on Time That Remains, as a set decorator. Key word is "late-breaking," though. While Haj borrows Suleiman's droll absurdism and structural gamesmanship, her sensibility is warmer, less caustic.