ETOILES DE JOUR (STARS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT) (Syria 1988) ***
Directed by Ossama Mohammed
Review by Gilbert Seah
ETOILES DE JOUR (STARS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT) screens on Saturday, August 27 at 4 p.m. as part of TIFF Cinematheque’s Syria Self-Portraits: Chronicles of Tyranny, Chronicles of War, running from August 26 to September 4. Video introduction by Rasha Salti.
This is my first Syrian film and I am sure it will be the first for most others. Mohammed’s film has an artsy experimental grainy look, being shot in black and white. If commercial Hollywood blockbusters is your cup of tea, better avoid this film like the plague.
Some more background information about the film: Premiered in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors Fortnight) at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, Ossama Mohammed’s first feature remains banned from screening in Syria due to its subversive critique of how the arbitrary and absolute power arrogated to men in a patriarchal society engenders a violence that pervades both familial and intimate relationships.
The film is set in a small village where a double wedding is about to take place. The first scene is a chicken through the window while a man chants about his dream during the night. The lead character is an all-powerful family patriarch, who dictates the fate of his family and kin with absolute authority and administers violence almost arbitrarily.
The film is a hard watch and demands concentration to figure who is who and what is going on. All Syrians sort of look alike, which is a problem. The humour is mostly Syrian and deadpan. It takes a while to get into the film, but once in, the film will captivate in its simplicity and subtlety. It is high drama – Syria style. One bride runs away and the other refuses the marriage. The eldest corrupt son makes a good villain.
The film is quite direct in its political views. The characters outwardly declare their hatred towards Jewish Israel. The film is also male chauvinist oriented. So political correct audiences should beware! See the film at your own risk!