Streaming Review

Mayor review – moving, surprisingly funny look at Palestinian politics

David Osit's doc follows Ramallah mayor Musa Hadid as he attempts the impossible juggling act of fixing up a city under occupation

When we hear about Palestine, be it on the news or in films, it’s generally through one of two lenses – either that of grand-scale geopolitics, or intimate studies of the boots on the ground military oppression that Palestinian civilians constantly face from Israeli occupiers. David Osit’s documentary Mayor splits the difference, focusing on the influential and much-loved mayor of Ramallah, Musa Hadid, and the day-to-day strife he faces in local government.

Musa has to deal with everything from sewage issues to marketing Ramallah’s business opportunities to violent incursions from the IDF, and he does so with almost indefatigable dignity and good humour. Mayor can be a surprisingly funny film, with confused, circular meetings about “city branding” showing that frustration with marketing buzzwords and consultants is a truly universal problem, and Musa is an immensely charming figure.

That said, the darkness of the story is unavoidable; young kids, who should by all rights know nothing of politics, bemoan the fact that Palestinian liberation seems impossible, and an overnight IDF invasion of Ramallah makes for distressing viewing as they gas and beat civilians indiscriminately. Osit presents these horrors matter-of-factly, putting us in the thick of it alongside Musa, and so we feel his frustration that much more strongly when he has to deal with foreign delegations who encourage a “coming together” with Israel as if there’s a parity of aggression on each side.

Ramallah itself is a fascinating setting, one that doesn’t fit with typical western portrayals of Palestine. It is occasionally war-torn, yes, but there are fancy restaurants, Vegas-style light shows, and hilarious Christmas ceremonies set to dubstep-esque covers of “Jingle Bells.” It’s a complex, multifaceted city, and Mayor is a moving ode to the place, its people, and the politicians trying to hold it together.

Mayor is now streaming on Curzon Home Cinema.

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