The Syrian Bride
The Middle East’s ethnic morass provides the backdrop to a somewhat conventional wedding dramedy in director Eran Riklis’ disarmingly bittersweet The Syrian Bride. It follows the arranged-marriage plans of Mona (Clara Khoury), a daughter in a Druze family—Druze are a small community of kinda/sorta Arab Muslims—that lives in a town near the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights. She is betrothed to a Syrian TV star (Derar Sliman) whom she has never met. Problem is, since Syria doesn’t recognize Israel, once Mona enters Syria, she can never return, and Israel passports or Israel-stamped passports can’t enter. What follows are the rather familiar wedding-planning family hassles unleashed in the Kafkaesque limbo between the Israel and Syrian borders. In many ways Riklis has crafted a political movie—Mona’s father, Hammed (Makram J. Khoury, Clara Khoury’s real father), is an activist prohibited from entering Syria, her more liberated sister Hiyam (Paradise Now’s Hiam Abbass) bridles at the marriage’s traditional baggage—wrapped up in a family drama with neither theme really getting fully explored. Fortunately, Clara Khoury wears the complete unknown of what she is doing and getting into in her face and posture, and shots of her standing in the sandy desert in a wedding dress convey a quicksand sadness that Bride’s story never matches.