Fangs of patriarchy

66-sand-storm Sand Storm (Arabic, 2016)

At a Bedouin village in Israel’s Negev Desert, a man (Suliman) is getting married for the second time as his first wife could not bear him a son. People sing, dance and make merry; but the celebration is separate for men and women in the highly sexually segregated community.

Layla, Suliman’s daughter, has little regard for the patriarchal leanings of her society. She longs to break free and be with her lover. Layla is sure that her dad will not object to this union. Her hopes are shattered when she realises that her father, who she idolises, is no different from the other regressive men around her. When her mother, a hard taskmaster, is ‘exiled’ by her father, Layla is forced to make a choice that she never imagined she would have to.

Helmed by first-time filmmaker Elite Zexer, Sand Storm—which swept a series of international awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at 2016 Sundance Film Festival—is an unapologetic look at a society which accords privileges to men, while silencing its women. The subdued women, in turn, muzzle others who dare to defy conventions, thus perpetuating and normalising the vicious circle of abuse and subjugation. Zexer’s women are no more victims than they are custodians of social evils, and the film offers no redemption even to those audacious enough to rebel and wriggle out.