• Golden Globe Awards

The Idol (Palestine)

There was an an eruption of joy and a sense of unity among Palestinians worldwide when 23-year-old singer from Gaza, Mohammad Assaf, won the Arab Idol competition in 2013. Among the jubilant celebrators was Golden Globe-winning Palestinian director, Hany Abu Assad, who saw Assaf as more than just a singer but a national icon and a source of pride and hope for his people. And when a script about the singer’s life journey landed on his desk two years later, Palestine’s most recognized director leapt at the opportunity to translate it to the big screen in The Idol.The Idol begins in the early nineties with Assaf and his tomboyish spirited sister, Nour, growing as children amid the rubbles of Gaza. Oblivious to the destruction and hopelessness around them, Assaf and his sister have a big dream and are determined to fulfill it: they want to be musicians. Doing menial jobs, they manage to accumulate enough funds to form a band and start performing at weddings and other events to the delight and disapproval of many, who like Assaf’s bewildered though generally supportive parents, are unaccustomed to the sight of children performing in public. The exuberance of the first half of the movie, however, gives way to somber and reflective mood when diabetic Nour succumbs to her illness and dies.We meet Assaf (played by Tawfeek Barhom) again in 2012, in a city that has visibly experienced more destruction than progress over the years.  Now a teenager making a living as a cab driver, Assaf is still pursuing his dream of a singing career. His attempts to obtain funding and to release a record are met with obstacles and failures, until one day he senses an opportunity when he learns that auditions are being held in Cairo for the second season of “Arab Idol.”Cairo is only a few hours bus journey from Gaza, but for Gazans, who are virtual prisoners in their own land and can’t leave it without going through a lengthy process of obtaining special travel visas, it can take years. And in Assaf’s case, he also has to overcome the objection of Hamas, who rule Gaza, to taking part in a secular, televised singing competition. But with a fake Visa, relentless Assaf crosses the border and embarks on a perilous journey that ultimately leads him to victory and glory. And returning home, he is welcomed as a national hero.In a departure from his previous films, Golden Globe winner Paradise Now (2005) and Academy Award nominated Omar (2013), in which he focuses on the grim reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with in The Idol Assad has crafted a feel good story, imbued with cheerful energy, exhilarating music and tear-jerking moments, but without compromising on his trademarks of suspense and rhythm.  Deftly weaving the images of Assaf’s desolate surroundings into the fabric of his personal journey, he demonstrates that the human spirit can’t be defeated and will overcome adversity when it is fuelled by hope and guided by dreams.