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Port of Memory: An Oblique Demi-Documentary With Surprisingly Vivid Images

By Michael Atkinson, February 2011


An oblique, impressionist portrait of Arabs living in Jaffa, Kamal Aljafaris Port of Memory is only an hour long, but quietly and atmospherically touches on the Kiarostamian Uncertainty Principle, with Aljafari liberally corrupting his demi-documentary with scripted dialogue, rehearsals, and even digital effects. The film skips about, haphazardly observing as the filmmakers Christian Palestinian aunt, uncle, and grandmother pensively stave off being evicted from a house theyve owned for 40 years while the citys government-spurred gentrification rolls onward. Aljafari avoids politics, Jews, and narrative; instead, odd smidgens of the quotidian are examined, from his aunts obsessive hand-washing and his uncles despairing memories of an idealized past to Chuck Norris killing Arabs on TV and a hysterical Vespa rider zooming through the empty streets screaming. Aljafari has a Chris Markerian eye, and his images are often surprisingly vivid, even when he drops in chunks of Menahem Golans musical Kazablan (1974), and then drops his uncle into them. Accompanying the film are Aljafaris silent doc short Balconies (a diptych rumination on the balconied vestiges of Ramle) and Ken Jacobss magical The Day Was a Scorcher, which subtly fragments and reincarnates family photos from a 70s Rome excursion into a shuttering, 3-D valentine to the masters family.