Upon arrival in Sebastia, Tareq befriends local businessman Adel (Suhail Haddad), and starts working on a building project that Adel has promised the locals will bring prosperity. Housed at a local seamstress’ workshop where Leila (Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi) is employed, Tareq starts the search for his daughter and is intrigued by the young girl Leila is looking after. Her name is Malak (Malak Ermileh) and she appears to be roughly the same age as his missing daughter. The film sets itself up as the possibility of a certain genre that wrong foots the audience up to three times. This is done in such a subtle manner that the viewer only realises later what Najjar has cleverly done. It’s not clear until close to the film's final third that Eyes of a Thief is asking some difficult questions, questions that never leave the grey uncertainty of an ill defined reality that resounds with the effects occupation leaves on the psyche of a traitor.
The sense of spirit and humanity is best shown in the interplay between Tareq and the spirited Malak (a beautiful performance by first timer Ermileh) as their bond grows on the possibility that they may be father and daughter. Never once does Najjar fall into the trap of idealised unearned emotion, she's far more interested in these characters as human beings and never motors towards didacticism. This is brought to the fore by having Tareq and Leila both being played by non-Palestinians (Egyptian and Tunisian retrospectively). Ultimately Eyes Of A Thief is a sleight film that acts as an opening to the world of a closed society that eats, drinks, fights, watches football and exists like any other community.
D W Mault | @D_W_Mault
The London Palestine Film Festival runs from 28th November - 8th December. For more information click here.