Not Palestinian, not Israeli, the Golan Heights Druze suffer the curse of double exclusion: They are an Arabic community with a religion distinctly separate from the traditional Islam of their surroundings. They live in the shadows of other nationalities and religions, and their diaspora—numbering 1 million, mostly in the Middle East—are just as resigned to their region's patented blend of optimism and pessimism.
The Syrian Bride dramatizes the true-life circumstances that face Druze living in Israel who want to marry within their community but across national borders. Mona (Khoury) knows that once she weds the Syrian Druze to whom she has been blindly betrothed, her passport will forbid a return to her Golan Heights homeland. Indeed, the only way for friends and relatives on both sides to celebrate the union together is with megaphones over the heads of border guards.
Director Eran Riklis balances humor and pathos to capture the situation's joy, anger and frustration. Adding more depth are all the interpersonal relationships, including a father who freezes out his son for marrying a Russian, and a long-lasting arranged marriage that's a life sentence for the feminist Amal (Abbass, whose appearances in Paradise Now and the upcoming Free Zone make her the maternal voice of Middle Eastern tolerance). The result is a clear-eyed portrait of subcultures within subcultures, endlessly enduring cycles of oppression—with glimmers of hope nonetheless. (Opens Wed; Film Forum.)