Finding love can be difficult. Doing it in one of the most dangerous regions in the world is even more daunting. Yet Arab and Tarzan Nasser make the Gaza Strip home to a saccharine romance. Gaza Mon Amour delivers a wonderful romantic comedy with some undeniable political overtones. The Nasser Brothers strip down the genre to its essentials, creating wonderfully human moments as a result. Buoyed by Salim Dau‘s wonderful turn, Gaza Mon Amour reminds us its never too late to reach for love.
Gaza Mon Amour follows Issa (Dau), an elderly fisherman who lives in Gaza. Over the last few months, Issa has fallen in love with Siham (Hiam Abbass), a local seamstress. As Issa attempts to facilitate a romance with Siham, he finds a Bronze Greek Statue in the ocean. Soon, Issa finds himself caught between trying to realize his romance with Siham, while hiding his find from Hamas.
While Gaza Mon Amour creates a minimalist romance, the location is integral to everything that happens in the film. Yes, Gaza is dangerous. We see bombings, hear about Israeli Forces, and worry about the oppressive forces in the region. Issa’s best friend Samir (George Iskandar) speaks about escaping Gaza to build a life away from the region. While the story at the heart of Gaza Mon Amour is universal, its characters are undeniably shaped by years of heartbreak and loss. Despite these tragedies, the characters believe in hope and love.
Issa and his mission embody the human spirit at its finest. Dau imbues Issa with a boundless joy that illuminates the screen. The Nassers create many quiet moments throughout the film, letting Dau utilize negative space to create something special. The directors’ confidence pays off, as Dau layers subtle actions on top of his performance to create a fully lived-in character. He disappears into the role, and his charisma is undeniable.
Western audiences may groan over the dream girl symbolism given to Samir. In their interactions, Issa continually fumbles over his words, like a middle schooler asking a classmate to the dance. As he pines after her, the one-sided relationship evolves. Yet cultural differences aside, the Nassers work hard to add depth to Siham. Abbass gets to showcase her own talent as the film hands the narrative baton to her on several occasions. As travels through her arc, her choices and opinions are very thoroughly explored. This is not a 2D love interest, but instead a fully formed character with her own ambitions and dreams for her family.
Gaza Mon Amour creates a wholly human experience from start to finish. The Nassers crowd-pleaser is easy to fall in love with thanks to its simple yet effective story. The documentation of day-to-day life, even in a place like Gaza, is comforting after six months of quarantine. As humans, we adapt to our situations and strive for normalcy. Gaza Mon Amour is a testament to that hope.