'Mayor': A window into Occupied Palestine

Film poster overlays photo of 2006 youth protest in Ramallah
Mayor brings the courage of young people in Ramallah to the screen.

Mayor
Documentary film directed by David Osit
In Arabic and English
Streaming on various services, available from https://www.mayorfilm.com/screenings

The expression “Occupied Territories” has become normalised over the decades. Mayor, a new documentary filmed over several years in the seat of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah, brings to life what occupation means in daily life for Palestinians.

The camera follows Musa Hadid, the town mayor, as he tries to square the circle of holding a position of authority while being denied power to achieve anything by the stifling Israeli presence. You can see the stress on his face as he navigates his perilous daily course.

We see him trying to save villagers from being swamped by raw sewerage as the municipal pumping station malfunctions for the umpteenth time. Ramallah has no proper sewerage system because Israeli officialdom has dragged its heels in granting permission for one for years.

Meanwhile, illegal settlers, high on the neighbouring hill, live in comfort.

When Donald Trump announces that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there, tensions explode, as Palestinian youth face off against Israeli soldiers, and rocks are met with bullets and tear gas.

Things get worse, as the Israeli Defence Force invades Ramallah, clearly intending to attack the municipal offices, with Hadid inside. Suddenly, the youth come to the rescue, and with only raw courage and rocks the IDF are sent running.

There are some moments of unintentional, sardonic humour, such as when a visiting German parliamentary delegation berates Palestinian representatives about building a bridge of trust with Israelis. A visit by Britain’s Prince William also shows the running sore of Palestinian powerlessness.

Welcoming these international delegations is a two-edged sword for the Palestinians. On one hand they open diplomatic windows, on the other the fact that they come to Ramallah could cement the city’s place as the Palestinian capital and not Jerusalem, which by default belongs to Israel.

How can Hadid keep his people’s spirits up in such circumstances? His solution is to build a municipal fountain, with dancing fonts, coloured lights and recorded music.

It borders on kitsch, but it is clear from the opening crowds that anything life-giving that the Israelis can’t crush is welcome. The vision is simple, uplifting and deeply moving.