The Present: Review. by Alif Majeed.
When you watch a short film, you often wonder if it would have the same impact if it were a feature-length movie. The Present worked both ways for me as I enjoyed it in its present form, but I also wished to see more of the main protagonists and their journey.
It reminds you so much of the movies that Majid Majidi or Jafar Panahi became famous for making, ones that conveyed a lot by the time it is over, despite being as minimal as possible.
The Present is about Yusef, a Palestine who has to navigate the West Bank region to buy a fridge as an anniversary gift for his wife, which he does with his young daughter because of the complexity of his region’s situation. Along the way, he has to get through the red tape, roadblocks, and his own messed up back, which keeps on giving out in his small quest to get the fridge back home.
Farah Nabulsi, the director, has streamlined the story to only what is important to portray Yusef’s journey to get the fridge. There is always a temptation and the need to show more. Like other characters, they meet on the road (including some quirky characters out to teach them some life lessons). But Farah is not interested in doing any of that. Without trying to cram into the story as many issues surrounding the region as possible, she makes the movie a parable about a person’s right of movement.
The father’s role needed an actor who shines across as a man on a mission while letting the character’s inherent decency shine, which is precisely what Saleh Bakri did. As Yasmine, Mariam Kanj is also incredibly angelic and marvelous as the daughter who has joined the father on his journey. A considerable part of why we root for them is that they come across as decent human beings who dot on each other.
There are moments in these topical movies where you feel the protagonists are in danger. Towards the climax of The Present, there is a tense scene where you almost think they are in imminent danger. Kudos to the director for making it feel like a natural extension of everything that happened to them and not a means to shoehorn in some sense of drama.
As I said earlier, I wondered how it would be as a full-length movie as it makes you curious to know more about the movie’s subject. The Present will make you interested in understanding the region the characters live in and their situations. That itself is a victory for the director, making her achieve what she set out to do.
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