Urs al-jalil

← Part of the Collection: Michel Khleifi’s Fertile Memory
Urs al-jalil
Wedding in Galilee

“For Wedding in Galilee, the idea came to me through the story of a quack doctor who was faced with a newly wed couple unable to make love on their wedding night, creating unbearable tension in a village. From this idea, I wrote a modern tragedy in which two ‘gods’ confront each other, representing two systems, military and modern, one of the Israeli military governor and the other of the patriarchal and archaic authority of the Palestinian Mukhtar, or mayor of the village. As each tries to pull destiny his way, it is the fate of the people of the village that is at stake. The question is: who will win? In this film, for which I also wrote the script, I wanted to erase the boundaries between fiction and reality. The characters came from my imagination but they were played by non-professionals who had been chosen for their fictive resemblance to the scenario’s characters. Here, I was interested in the theme of joyfulness and resilience under occupation.”

Michel Khleifi1


“Who is Michel Khleifi? A filmmaker born in Nazareth in 1950 and living in Belgium since 1970. His second film, Wedding in Galilee, has just made its grand appearance in the Quinzaine de Réalisateurs in Cannes. His first film, Fertile Memory, was already very good. This one is beautiful. It’s the film of the moment. It is also the first Palestinian film in the history of cinema that was made ‘in the interior’. No militancy. No aestheticism, nor Manichaeism. Simply a film. But one that doesn’t give way on anything of the essential: that Palestine, this occupied land, is not n’importe quoi. That the life of its inhabitants cannot be considered as separate from its contradictions and its sensuality.

Within the weary group of Arab filmmakers who have worn themselves out by trying to reconcile art and commitment, Michel Khleifi appears as the last romantic, even utopist, who thinks one has to film. It was enough for him to stand by one single point: the function of a filmmaker is not to make propaganda, but to take a just look at just situations and characters. Easy? Not really, when one is Belgian-Palestinian. Difficult even when one is a filmmaker (it’s the idea of the ‘gaze’ that is waning in cinema). That’s why we are happy to bring to mind that which no-one can deny: that cinema is beautiful when it is in the service of dialogue between people.”

Serge Daney2


“Khleifi appears to hold the conviction that it is not possible to represent the Palestinian nation without recognizing women’s contribution more fully and openly. His work consistently illuminates their ‘hidden’ world, and remarkable women in his films challenge both the official, nationalist narrative and external stereotypes. [...] In much modern Palestinian literature, women’s voices are not heard: there is what could be called a monologic discourse of patriarchy where the male voice dominates and excludes women. The language, even during the Intifada, largely fails to question standard images of women. Khleifi’s work resists traditional stereotypes of Arab women while engaging, to a greater or lesser extent, in a critique of patriarchal society. At the same time he opens up a political space in which women are seen to contribute significantly to the building of the nation. But, if women are to express themselves and resist patriarchal repression, if they are to be strong and to carry the burden of the daily struggle to preserve the family and the nation, and if they are to represent the land of Palestine, then Samia’s question in Wedding in Galilee – ‘where do you find the honor of a man?’ – becomes ever more pertinent. As women become subjects of resistance they cease to function as objects of national symbolism and male honor.”

Tim Kennedy3


“If the Zionists’ project historically was to deny the existence of a Palestinian people, Wedding in Galilee’s thick description and documentation of Palestinian culture and agriculture provide a counternarrative. It forcefully posits that Palestinian Arabs are there on the ground, and that like the Israelis they are capable of making the desert bloom. By so integrally linking the Palestinians to the land and to its cultivation, the film creates an agricultural idyll before occupation and expulsion. [...] While the exterior fields in Wedding are male spaces of militarization and eventually of masculine reconciliation, the home interiors are coded as feminine spaces of culture and of female reconciliation. During the wedding, an Israeli female soldier becomes ill. She is brought indoors, where Palestinian women tend to her and, in an erotically charged sequence, undress and massage her. By experiencing the synaesthetic world of Palestinian women – involving Arabic language, flowers, colors, perfume, water, and sensuous touching – the soldier undergoes a transformation, which is signaled when she exchanges her uniform for a Palestinian dress. The film establishes a parallel between the saving of the mare and the transformation of the female soldier, both of which involved demilitarization as a result of cooperation of the opponents. It posits that the Palestinian national identity is dependent not only on securing land but also on creating a thirdspace of cooperation.”

Hamid Naficy4


On slow change in the Middle East… ‘As for the Palestinian people, since the film there has been Oslo, the Palestinian authority, etc, but the situation in the Middle East, including the Israel and Palestine, are not seeing happier days. Fertile Memory and Wedding in Galilee were created during the peak of antagonisms and confrontations. As they say, the old world doesn’t want to die and the new world is taking its time to be born – and so it produces wars that seem endless, but I hope they are the indicative of necessary change in the region.’

On being in exile… ‘Two great authors of the 20th Century, Bertolt Brecht and Jacques Derrida, came to the same conclusion on this matter: the exile is a dialectic individual par excellence. He is outside and inside of his original and of his adopted society, meaning he can only think in rational terms about life, its structure and its institutions, and as an individual he is always in a dynamic of relationships between the individual and the collective. So being an exile could be an opportunity or saving grace for the soul, but most of all it is vast terrain for creation. To be far from loved ones and loved places can only make this love grow greater.’”

Michel Khleifi5

  • 102: Wedding in Galilee”.
  • 2Serge Daney, Libération, 16-17 mai 1987. [translated by Stoffel Debuysere]
  • 3Tim Kennedy, “Wedding in Galilee (Urs al-jalil),” in Film Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 4 (2006), 40-46.
  • 4Hamid Naficy, An Accented Cinema. Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001), 167-169.
  • 5Wedding in Galilee”.
UPDATED ON 08.11.2023