Political Film Society - Newsletter #231 -August 1, 2005

August 1, 2005


God's SandboxAlthough Moolaadé last year featured Senegalese women protesting female circumcision in the 1990s, God's Sandbox (Tahara) brings the practice into a Romeo-and-Juliet story involving an Israeli woman and a Bedouin man in the 1960s. Directed by Doron Eran, the movie begins in the present, with a sixtysomething Liz (played by Razia Israeli) getting out of a car, in which she presumably was a hitchhiker. She then plods ahead on a road until she reaches an unpretentious Sinai Desert beach resort and tracks down her daughter Rachel (played by Orly Perel). However, Rachel is not eager to see her mom, who insists on remaining and refuses to follow her daughter's suggestion to check into a nearby hotel. In any case, Mustapha (played by Sami Samir), the waiter at the refreshment stand by the beach where the mother encounters her daughter, proposes to tell a true story much in the manner of Arabian Nights (2000), so the women listen attentively. The next part of the film flashbacks back and forth to the story, which takes place in the 1960s and begins with hippies at the same beach resort who run into a group of Bedouin men. The Bedouins are disgusted by the libertine women, particularly a blonde Israeli named Leila (played by Meital Dohan), who offers herself to the male tourists. One evening, twentysomething Najim (played by Juliano Merr), a Bedouin, asks nine-year-old Mustapha to relay a note to Leila that she is not welcome. Fascinated by the young Bedouin, Leila takes off a pendant, wraps the object with her headscarf, asks Mustapha to give the wrapped pendant as a present to Najim, and leaves the beach to sleep with someone for the night. Having received a gift, Najim by custom must respond with another, but when they meet again, he not only gives her a Bedouin dress but also insists that she wear the garment along with a veil. Afterward, they go to his tent for three days of almost nonstop sex.



When they emerge from the tent, Najim insists that he must marry Leila, but his father objects so strongly that he disowns him. Ejected from the tribe, Najim and Leila wander until his uncle one day tracks them down. His uncle offers a deal: Give up Leila and he will be accepted back home. Having been humiliatingly expelled, Najim refuses. That night, while Najim and Leila are asleep, the uncle lets loose a snake, which goes to Leila but refuses to attack her. When she awakens to see the snake's head in front of her face, she screams, the uncle removes the snake, and Najim tries to calm her down. Insisting that Leila was not attacked because she is a reincarnated snake, the uncle prepares a potion that so weakens Leila that she is carried back to the tribe and painfully circumcised against her will. Regaining her strength after the ordeal, while alone in a cave with Najim, Leila picks up a rock, hits him repeatedly, and escapes. Meanwhile, Liz reacts to the story with much agony. The obvious inference is that Liz is Leila, who finally asks whether Najim is still alive. Mustapha, who admits that he has been caring for him, then takes Leila to him. Najim's expression perhaps does more to communicate the injustice of female circumcision than cries of agony, and the film ends as Leila and her daughter leave the beach resort. Accordingly, the Political Film Society has nominated God's Sandbox as best film on human rights of 2004. MH

The annual meeting of the members of the Political Film Society will take place on Saturday, August 13, at 10 a.m. The location is 8481 Allenwood Road, Los Angeles, CA. The agenda will be to elect officers, review membership, and review the financial and legal status of the nonprofit corporation. 

In mid-July, Stewart M. Clamen of the Movie Review Query Engine informed the Political Film Society that our film reviews will be accessible on their website (www.mrqe.com), covering the years from 1998 to the present. MRQE is one of the largest compendia of film reviews on the Internet.