At first, it seems as if we might be looking through the protective grille of a helmet, but it’s the point-of-view of caged doves that are eventually supposed to take flight to exalt the couple’s union. Revelers lift the bride Lina (Yara Elham Jarrar), and the groom Aziz (Samir Bishirat), over their heads and carry them around the dance floor. We meet Aziz’s sad-seeming older brother Sami (Alex Bakri), who is visiting from Jerusalem, where he has a cushy tech executive job, a wife and young son who have accompanied him, and a mistress that he secretly texts. Sami’s wife Mira (Juna Suleiman) is frustrated that Sami doesn’t touch her anymore but suppresses her instincts about what that might mean.
We meet Sami and Aziz’s brother-in-law Nabil (Doraid Liddawi), the husband of their only sister Rola (Areen Saba); Nabil is the head of the town council, and as the story goes on, we learn how centrally important he is to the community’s daily life. We also glimpse the mother of the groom, Zahera (Izabel Ramadan), and her husband, Tarek (Salim Daw). Tarek is a loving but fierce and judgmental patriarch who is obsessed with history and tradition. He wants Sami to take over the family compound and live there with his wife and son. Tarek’s son-in-law seems to be angling for that spot in the family pecking order as well, but Tarek doesn’t like him for reasons that become increasingly clear.
Most of the story is anchored to the older brother Sami, a smart, sharply dressed, good-looking fellow who uses silence to mask his discomfort over returning home and being the man he is. (“I’m not a good person,” he later admits.) It’s through Sami that the film intertwines the personal and political elements of the story and illustrates how they’re the same.
Before this movie was released, Kolirin told journalists that he expected to get in trouble for being an Israeli Jewish artist with the chutzpah to make a film about an Israeli Arab family—not just because the Israeli presence in the territories is a third-rail topic all over the globe, but also because the novel delves into class tensions within the community that make it hard for its members to agree on whether to take up arms or keep their heads down.