Location, location, location—the real-estate adage never felt truer than in this high-tension drama about a Palestinian family whose house is taken over by Israeli soldiers. Fearful of his new guests yet quietly defiant, patriarch Mohammad (Bakri) refuses to leave his strategically located home, no matter the psychological toll on his wife and five children. "Being a refugee is not being," he states early on, before an agonizing test of his axiom unfolds.
An Israeli commander quickly issues the rules of engagement: The top floor is off-limits, and by night, the family is confined to the living room (with no toilet privileges). Woeful wife Samia (Omari) can't take the pressure, while hot-blooded daughter Miriam and young son Jamal want violent revenge. Mohammad, always the intellectual, reasons: "Staying here is fighting." And as in some haunted-house horror flick, the ensuing terrors make one wonder what it will take to finally propel the family to get the hell out of there.
Directed by Italian filmmaker Savario Costanzo and shot entirely in southern Italy, Private is obviously a glaring metaphor for Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. But the parallel rarely gets in the way of the powder-keg-like reality. Using a nerve-rattling handheld camera, Costanzo evokes a palpable sense of fear and frustration in the family members, all of whom act their guts out. It's only with Roger Waters's whiny end-credit song "Perfect Sense" ("And the Germans killed Jews / And the Jews killed the Arabs") that the movie collapses into overwrought hand-wringing. (Opens Fri; Angelika).