But they persevere and this team becomes very important to their livelihoods and to their lives. What this team is able to do that politicians struggle with is to create ties across strong sectarian lines. Kurds talking to Arabs. Arabs talking to Christians. All the girls learning about each other's lives. Playing sports strips away preconceived notions of who is your friend and who is your enemy. Yet they know that this is an oasis in their realities of living in a country where war and death are everywhere. They keep a self imposed distance in relationships because so many loved ones have been lost and the constant loss has caused them all to build a force field around their hearts. They laugh and love the game and it gives them a sense of self esteem they otherwise wouldn't have, yet you can't help but see the heavy burden they are carrying growing up in a war torn country.
Susan Youssef's Habibi is the first film to be shot in Gaza in 15 years. It tells the fictional story of two lovers torn apart by class and circumstance. The film is based on the Majnun Layla poem of forbidden love dating back to 7th century Arabia. Set in the Gaza Strip in 2001 at the beginning of the second Intifada, Qays and Layla, two young college students in the West Bank are forced to return home due to the outbreak of violence. Both are Palestinians and while they may have many similarities they also have many differences -- Layla comes from the village and lives in a house and Qays lives in a refugee camp. Qays does not have the necessary money to marry Layla and they are both heartbroken. Qays roams the town writing love poems to Layla that threaten her reputation.
Susan Youssef lays out how you can be alike yet so different, how politics and political strife is devastating a region and how hopes and dreams are quashed by realities you have no control over.
The festival is running through June 28. Here is the schedule.