Rana's Wedding

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Rana's Wedding

Cast:

Last-minute wedding arrangements are always a hassle, a hectic pileup of minor emergencies and unexpected snags. But for 17-year-old Clara Khoury, the frazzled heroine of Hany Abu-Assad's deceptively airy political comedy Rana's Wedding, the roadblocks to marriage aren't just metaphorical: She's coming from occupied East Jerusalem. Her special day calls for canny negotiation between the oppressive Israeli authorities on one side and patriarchal Islamic traditions on the other, whether she's slipping past military checkpoints or pleading her case to the Palestinian registrar. Once a line producer for director Elia Suleiman, who hit a raw nerve with his absurdist provocation Divine Intervention, Assad has a lighter and less distinctive touch, but they both share an instinct for discomfiting humor, with laughs that remain stuck in the throat. As Khoury barrels her way through one obstacle after another, the tone of the film is angry yet hopeful and resilient, like any bride coping with a wedding day that's not going off as planned. Starting bright and early in her middle-class family home, Khoury faces the morning with a heavy ultimatum hanging over her head: Either she chooses a husband from a list of moneyed suitors her father has selected, or she must leave with him for Egypt, where he is relocating for business. A rebellious and headstrong young woman, Khoury sneaks out of the house to pursue Plan C, combing the city for her secret boyfriend Khalifa Natour, who runs a theatrical company in Ramallah. To beat her 4 p.m. deadline, she must squeeze through the crossfire between Israeli soldiers and rock-throwing Palestinian boys, hook up with Natour and his best friend, convince a West Bank registrar to perform the service, wade through massive lines for the necessary paperwork, get a haircut and a dress, and earn her father's grudging approval. Assad's day-in-the-life timeframe is an ideal way to show the struggles (some dangerous, others merely irksome) of conducting ordinary business under the occupation. At times too anxious to score political points, Assad overstuffs the volatile backdrop with incident, from a funeral procession for a slain Palestinian to a bulldozer leveling a neighbor's house to a group of fearful Israeli soldiers who draw their weapons over Khoury's unholstered cell phone. Yet Rana's Wedding is agreeably soft at heart, a fun and progressive entertainment that above all wants to give love a wide berth, no matter what imposing obstacles have to be cleared from the aisle first.