Private (2004)





Director:     Saverio Costanzo. 

Starring:     Mohammed Bakri (Mohammad B.),  Lior Miller (Commander Ofer),  Hend Ayoub (Mariam B.),  Tomer Russo (Private Eial),  Areen Omari (Samiah B.),  Marco Alsaying (Jamal B.),  Sara Hamzeh (Sarah B.),  Karem Emad Hassan Aly (Karem B.),  Amir Hasayen (Amir B.),  Niv Shafir (Private Dan),  Sahar Lachmy (Private Ariel).

the home of a well-educated Palestinian family is raided by Israeli soldiers imprisoning the family on the ground floor while they take over to top floor as a lookout


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

A wife named Samia tells her husband Mohammed that she wants to leave the house because she can't take another night like last night.  She says she is frightened.  Her husband says he is also frightened, but he doesn't want to become a refugee, because then you are a nobody.  Father gets support from his daughter, but mom tells her to be quiet.  Father and daughter agree that the Israelis can't make them leave.  Mom insists, but dad shouts:  "It's a matter of principle.  It's final." 

The family gets up.  They have a lot of children, namely 6.  Father asks the eldest male child, Yousef, what is he doing?  Homework.  Dad says the problem is that he's always doing his homework at the very last minute.  Jets buzz over their house.  Karim is the small boy of the house.  The kids get into the car and dad drives them to school.  He told his wife earlier that today he has a meeting with the teachers. 

Zena, the neighbor, comes looking for Samia.  She says her and her family were worried about them.  What happened last night?  Samia begins the story.  She says the family heard gunshots outside.  Suddenly Israeli soldiers came to their house.  There was then a firefight between the Israelis and the Palestinians outside their house.  About the Israelis, Zena says:  "God damn the day they came here."  Samia says she was very scared, but her husband seemed to value his own principles more that he valued the lives of their children.  Zena praises Mohammed saying there should be more men like him -- men who stand up to the Israelis.  Samia says there will be a high price to pay for standing up to the Israelis.  Zena says the Israelis didn't come into Samia's house.  That means they won't come into their house, so Samia should stop worrying. 

The family arrives back home.  The oldest child Mariam tells her father that she doesn't want to go to a university in Germany.   Dad says he can't understand why she would reject this great opportunity she has.  Mariam doesn't care if it's a great opportunity or not.  She just doesn't want to go.   Dad says that she can stay in Germany with her aunt.  And she can study medicine there too.  Dad insists that she is going. 

Yousef tells dad he is going out to play with his friends.  Dad tells him to be home before it's dark.  Outside mother hangs up the clothes to dry and Mariam complains to mother that dad is telling her that she has to go to Germany.  Her mother backs her father saying that there are no opportunities for a Palestinian in the area in which they live.  Mom also says that she can't even get her husband to move out of harm's way.  Again Mariam tells mom that father is right.  He is going to stay and fight.  Mom replies if she wants to be like her father, then she can just go to Germany for her studies. 

Their son Jamal is fixing the fence, when dad comes out and tells him that dinner is ready. The family sits down for a meal.  After doing the dishes, mom tucks Karim into bed.  He says he wants to sleep in her bed, because the shadows in the room are very frightening.  He's afraid that the Israeli soldiers might return tonight.  His young sister tells him that if the soldiers come again, she will teach them a lesson.  This satisfies Karim and he settles down to sleep.

At night Mariam dresses in western clothes of jeans and a sweater, with no traditional head covering.  The sound of a helicopter is heard overhead.  Lots of people in the house are jumpy.  Mohammed asks Samia if she is angry at him?  She just asks, can't he see what's happening to their family while they stay in this dangerous location?  They have sex (not shown).

Dad is up when her hears noises outside. He goes to check the door, but the Israeli soldiers and now busting through the door.  Dad runs upstairs, with two Israeli soldiers close behind him.  There is mass confusion as the Israelis start pushing all the family members into a single room.  A soldier tells the family not to cross this line in the room.  In broken English he tells the family that they are not going to do anything to them, so don't be afraid.  Mariam, however, is very worried about her father who is not with them.  She hears a shot and tries to bust out of the room.  The Israeli soldiers grabs her and then mother grabs her from behind and has her sit down on the floor by the couch. 

Now they bring dad up to join the family.  The Israelis close and lock the door to the room.  Everyone manages to go back to sleep, except for Dad.  He bangs on the door and shouts:  "Let us out."   A couple of soldiers to the prison room.  The officer wants to speak with dad in private, so dad follows the soldiers.  The question is:  "Do you want to leave this house or no?"  No.  The officer replies:  "Good, because from today this house belongs to the Israeli army."   He says the house is being divided into three sections.  Section A is the living room.  At sunset he will take his family to the living room and stay there for the entire night.  Area B is the ground floor and the family can only come into it, if they have permission from the Israelis.  C will be upstairs and they are not allowed to go there for any reason.  Any violators going upstairs or going out a window will be punished.  Dad asks the officer if he can at least get some clothes from the top floor?  The officer says:  "Be my guest."

Dad brings extra clothes for the family.  He says the Israelis told him the family can stay.  They primarily want the second floor.  The kids can go to school.  But first everyone wants to examine the other rooms.  Mariam gets really upset and shouts at her father:  "They've destroyed our house.  What are the animals looking for?"  In English she shouts upstairs:  "What were you looking for, dogs?  Do you think we are killers like you?"  Father tells her that shouting is not going to help anyone.  Mariam gets mad and goes outside the house.  She sits down and cries. 

The kids are waiting in the family car for the appearance of their father.  Yousef and Karim both say they don't want to stay in this house.  Mariam says that they will throw the Israelis out.  She also says that she is ready to fight the Israelis.  Dad is busy trying to calm his wife.  She says:  "But I'm afraid of being alone in the house with them." 

Zena comes over and the Israelis come down and ask her for her I.D.  The soldier with her I.D. asks her a lot of questions.  He then tells her that this house is occupied, so she has to go and never come back and that's in her best interest too.

Jamal and dad fix up the greenhouse.   Dad asks Yousef if he wants to come out and help?  Yousef says he just doesn't feel like it.  Dad asks him if he is scared?  No. 

At night Mariam asks out loud how is she supposed to study with the Israelis making so much noise upstairs.  Suddenly, there is a burst of machine gun fire.  All the lights are off now and again there is mass confusion with people running around in the dark trying to find each other.  Where is Nada?  Dad keeps calling for her. 

In the morning the door is opened and dad grabs Nada who was sleeping in the hall by the door.  Dad tries to speak with Nada at the table, but she won't say anything. 

Samia is not doing very well.  She hides in a room and cries. 

At nigh Jamal watches as the soldiers take down the green house again.  Unable to sleep, Nada stays awake all night. 

In the morning, dad bangs on the door asking the soldiers to please let him out of the room.  Mariam tells her father that they should go out a window.  The soldiers are gone.  Dad says no one is going out a window.  Jamal goes over to the door and with a wire opens the door.  Dad tells everyone to sit in their regular places.  He is going out to look around.  He goes upstairs and finds no one.  Mariam comes up and shouts to dad that the soldiers have gone. 

Dad tells the kids to stay in the "prison room" downstairs, because the Israelis could come back at any minute.  Mariam really gets mad at her father saying why do they have to do this if the Israelis are gone?  She adds that why can't they fight the Israelis for once?  Dad says there is more than one way to fight and by staying in their home they are fighting.  Mariam says this is not fighting and damage is being done to everyone because of their being imprisoned all night long.  Look at Nada!  "We have to fight."   After awhile, Dad has to tell her that she must obey him.  His daughter becomes very angry, goes into her room and slams the door closed. 

At night the Israelis return.  One of the soldiers checks on the people and finds them still in the prison room.   A little while late the officer comes into the prison room and starts pulling dad out of there.  The family tries to hold onto dad, but they can't.  The officer has dad kneel on the floor.  He pulls out his pistol and puts it to dad's head asking him:  What did I tell you?  It looks like the officer is going to shoot dad in the head, but he decides to put his pistol away.  He does, however, tell dad if there is a next time, he will kill him. 

Dad is the last one to be put back in the prison room. 

Yousef tells his mother that he doesn't want to stay here anymore.  He says his friend Rashid's father said that he could stay over at their house for awhile. 

Mariam goes upstairs and peeks at what the Israelis are doing.  She wants to get her hands on a M-16 American rifle.   Two Israelis come up and Mariam has to hide in a closet.  Some stress is showing on the Israelis too.  The officer balls out the soldier who likes to play the flute.  He says there are hundreds of terrorists out there willing and eager to kill an Israeli.  Get to your post, soldier.  When the officer leaves the flute plays tells another soldier that the officer is
"stressed and paranoid".  The other soldier tells the flute player to relax because he is just talking nonsense.  He wants the officer to be relaxed and calm, rather than have to deal with him all stressed out.  When the coast is clear Mariam walks down the stairs and goes out the front door.

At dinner dad tries to talk to various family members, but everyone isn't really talking to him.  Yousef finally asks it he could live over at the house of Rashid's father?  Dad says absolutely not.  Yousef is very discouraged.  An Israeli soldier comes down to tell them that it's time for them to go to their room.

Nada says she has to go to the bathroom now.  They tell her to hold it in, but she says she can't.  Jamal goes to open the door with his wire.  Dad orders him to get back to his place.  Dad has become a brutal tyrant making all the decisions without any regard for the members of the family.  Samia says that she can't take any more of this.  She says she doesn't recognize the kids anymore. Samia has a good question for dad:  "Why can't you see?"  Dad says leaving now would be the worst mistake of their lives.  He says the children will blame them and come to hate them, if they leave.  (What a drama queen, he is!)  He says she can do what she wants, but he is staying. 

Jamal found a hand grenade when he went upstairs to check on the second floor.  He now plants the grenade in the ground of the greenhouse to be used as a land mine.  He sets the trap up and pulls the pin out of the grenade.  He starts to leave the greenhouse, but he sees his father and retrieves the grenade, putting the pin back in its place.  Dad says he is leaving but he will be back before nightfall. 

Mariam tells her mother that she is going to study in father's studio, but she goes upstairs  and gets back into the closet.  The soldiers are at times an inch from her.  She stays for awhile and then goes down the stairs.  There she finds Karim sitting on the bottom step crying.  He tells Mariam that she is being naughty.  She keeps going upstairs when daddy said that if she is found, they will kill all of the family.  Or they'll just kill sister Mariam.  He goes so far as to tell her that he is telling daddy on her.  Mariam asks him please not to do that.  He says then they should tell mama.  No, don't' say anything to anyone.  This will be a secret between just the two of them.

Mariam asks her mother to sew on a button that fell off.  Mom looks disapprovingly at her daughter and Mariam asks her what's' the matter?  Mariam is puzzled by her mother's attitude.

Mariam returns to watch the Israelis.  As she spies on the soldiers, she sees her baby brother come slowly walking up the stairs. When she looks again, he is gone.  Outside she tells baby brother that she told him not to follow her. He has to promise not to follow her in the future.

One night dad notices that the door is open.  He goes out and sits at the table besides an Israeli soldier.  The soldier asks him why doesn't he leave the house?  He says it's his house.  Now dad asks the soldier why doesn't he leave the house? 

Jamal is outside.  His father says he is going down to the greenhouse.  One has to wonder if Jamal wants his father to hit the trip wire and be killed in the explosion.  He doesn't warn his father about the danger.

Mariam is listening to and watching the soldiers.  The officer says they are to move to Tarmit in Raffah. The officer says he doesn't like moving around so much and having to take various houses away from the Palestinians. Mariam notices the soldier talking to the officer while looking straight at her.  When the soldiers move elsewhere, she gets out of the closet and heads downstairs. 

The land mine didn't work or father just missed it. 

The old crew of Israeli soldiers leaves.  The family still sleeps in the prison-room.  A new crew of Israeli soldiers come into the home and with their weapons pointed at the family tell them they have to move again.  Some of the Israeli soldiers go down to the green house to check it out.  Jamal watches from a window as they near one end of the greenhouse.  


A unit of Israeli soldiers occupy a home that is occupied by Palestinians.  They tell the Palestinian family their house is now the property of the Israeli army.  Mom wants to leave the house, but dad wants to stay and so does their eldest child Miriam.  The father and daughter both want to oppose what they regard as the Israeli occupation of their land.  But what they don't even consider is the question:  what will be the consequences of the Israeli occupation of the home on the five other children?  His wife thinks her husband is putting his principles ahead of the welfare of the children. And slowly, but surely, the family members start exhibiting unusual psychological problems.  The mother of the children is also deeply affected by their isolation from the larger world.  She does question the wisdom of her husband's choice to stay and she does ask him why can't he see what is right before him  --  the crumbling mental health of the children.  He does tell her she can go, but he is staying.  Personally, I think the woman should have taken the children and gone someplace else in order to keep them mentally healthy.  Probably the wife thought she couldn't leave her husband all alone in the house with the soldiers, but still she should have gone for the sake of the children, if not for her own mental health. 

The way I see it the house represents the homeland of Palestine.  One day Israeli soldiers come and occupy the house (homeland).  Now the household/homeland has to live under enemy occupation and has to get used to being an abused  minority in their own house/homeland.   Just after they lose one set of soldiers, another set of soldiers comes in and gives new orders for the household/homeland to follow.  These are annoying changes for those who have to live under occupation.  The people of the house/homeland start suffering  a lot of mental health problems because they are living under an occupation.  The Palestinian house is the Palestinian homeland having to go through horrible experiences under occupation.  The Israeli soldiers in the house ask the Palestinians why don't they leave the house/homeland and the Palestinians, in turn, ask the Israelis why they don't leave the house/homeland?  And the occupation rolls on without much hope that things will get better for the minorities. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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