Laila in Haifa: Amos Gitai’s Melodrama of Mixed Couples (Israeli and Palestinian)


Amos Gitai’s 'Laila in Haifa'
Venice Film Festival


A popular night spot in Haifa becomes a symbolic and real meeting place for Palestinians and Israelis.

Haifa, a port city in Israeli, is known for the co-existence of Arabs and Israelis. Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai, who hails from the city, aims to make the most of it in Laila in Haifa, where he brings contemporary Israelis and Palestinians together in mixed couples.

Set on Friday night, at a two-level night spot next to a metro line, where passing trains are loud and noisy. The club includes an art gallery and even a gay bar with a floor show. The place attracts Arabs and Jews, who talk, socialize, and argue.

The owner of the art gallery is Laila (Maria Zreik), an young Arab woman married to Kamal (Makram J. Khoury), a wealthy Palestinian older than she is. He is involved in politics–he’s strongly opposed to her showcase of pictures about the Palestinian Resistance, shot by dashing Israeli photographer Gil (Tsahi Halevi).

Meanwhile Kamal is harassed by a young Arab woman (Behira Ablassi), who demands money for Palestinian fighters and their families.

The final couple is Gil’s friend Hisham and his fragile wife Khawla (Khawla Ibraheem, a Syrian Palestinian actress), who is dissatisfied with her marriage and shows interest in Gil.

The single set contributes to the sense that the movie is too theatrical for its own good.