2004 - France / Germany / Israel  - 97 minutes
Writers - Suha Arraf and Eran Riklis
Director - Eran Riklis
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 8.1/10 - Link to IMDB
Roger Ebert Rating - 3 of 4 Stars - Link to Ebert's Review
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

A woman residing in the Golan Heights wishes to marry a Syrian. This would seem only a matter of concern to friends and family, but this is the Middle East. Because of the animosity between Israel and Syria, once the marriage takes place the bride is forbidden from ever visiting her friends and family in the Golan Heights. This entire film takes place on the day of the marriage but within those twelve short hours, we are treated to a look at a complex yet comic, tragic yet uplifting view of a most interesting family. The father is a noted leader against the occupation of the Golan Heights and has served time in prison because of his political beliefs. The older son has been rejected by his father and the community because he moved to Russia and married a Russian doctor. A younger son is a somewhat comic wheeler-dealer whose business practices are a little more than shady. The elder daughter is a fiercely independent woman married to a traditional man. The bride-to-be is a beautiful, sad woman previously married to a bad man who is going into an arranged marriage with a Syrian man she has never met.

Even though the title is The Syrian Bride, the film is really focused upon the elder daughter and her striving for a better psychological life for herself and her two daughters. Evelyn Kaplun who plays the elder daughter is an extraordinary actress - so strong - yet tender. Her strength and tenderness is the keystone of the film, and it is she who is able to mediate all of the conflicts of her relatives and the government in an attempt at happiness for her younger sister. It is an irony of the political climate of the film that she would probably not be able to be as independent and autonomous had she not been living in an area occupied by Israel as she surely would have been stifled by a Syrian society that is more restrictive of women.

There's an interesting sidelight to Ms. Kaplun's performance in that in the DVD special features, there is an interview with her real parents both whom appear to be very conservative. You see a very nervous Ms. Kaplun sitting between her parents while her father goes on about how his daughter is involved in a "forbidden" profession. I'm sure the theme of the film hit very much at home with her.

The bride played with low-keyed brilliance by Clara Khoury actually represents the untenable political situation of the area. She never is quite able to escape from her overall sadness and sits almost emotionless throughout the film while all levels of chaos take place about her. Ms. Khoury in her "emotionless" performance reveals all the harsh, raw emotions of the situation.

The Syrian Bride gives us a sobering picture of nice, ordinary people trying to survive and find happiness within systems of government so involved in hate and ideology that they actually punish rather than sustain their own citizens.

Neil Turner
June 12, 2006

The Syrian Bride