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Cannes 2015. Slow Burn: Arab & Tarzan Nasser's "Dégradé"

Can any day in Gaza be called “normal”?
Can any day in Gaza be called "normal"? Yet on this particular day, a group of women has gather in a small beauty salon run by a Russian migrant married to a Palestinian, with the help of a local girl. They're there to take care of themselves, or just have a moment's rest. Outside the salon, a young man keeps a lion on a leash. The animal has been kidnapped by a powerful local clan, defying Hamas' authority. Violence is bound to explode. Inside the salon, the women, from a young bride to a religious woman, from a lonely lady in her forties to an arrogant bourgeois and a colourful housewife, wait their turn, chat and argue; but mainly they speak their hearts about their world and about the society they live in.
As the outside situation and men force them to stay inside, the women reveal unexpected facets of themselves, going further and further apart from the sociological clichés they may have been in the beginning. As the walls of the salon close tighter on them, politics infiltrate the conversations, and the least one can say is that these ladies have quite a critical opinion about what is going on with Hamas and the Palestinian government, with the Palestinian society, with men and family. Not just Israel.
The Nasser twins say they hesitated to go on with their "palestino-palestinian" subject when another war fell upon Gaza in July 2014. Yet they persisted in their project: being Palestinian filmmakers should not mean, they say, making films only about the "conflict." Indeed, other conflicts appear here, that could very well bring closer to us a society and a people all too limited to their media images. The mise en scène and the editing, though, appear contaminated by a deep sadness: the rhythm of the film never gives in to the speed of slapstick comedy (in spite of its biting humor) nor into accelerations through bursts of drama and violence. It remains strikingly restrained, in a slow burning way. As if the whole film was a kind of understatement—until its bitter conclusion. This discrete way of letting reality permeate fiction is one of the film's finest qualities.

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