Filmmakers of “Holy Air” discuss challenges facing Christian Arabs

Filmmakers of “Holy Air” discuss challenges facing Christian Arabs

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Filmmakers of “Holy Air” discuss challenges facing Christian Arabs

Holy Air is a satirically sad and humorous look at Christian life in Israel. Movie review of “Holy Air” by writer and producer Shady Srour and Director Ilan Moskovitch. Arabic, English and Hebrew. Also a Podcast Interview with Srour and Moskovitch about the challenges of making a film that speaks to the life of Arab Christians

By Ray Hanania

Christian Arabs are an oppressed people throughout the Middle East, Israel and the Arab World. But their talents are amazing.

Israeli Christian Palestinian Shady Srour partnered with Israeli Jewish filmmaker Ilan Moskovitch to produce a new film called “Holy Air” that gives the audience a peek into the difficult life of the Christian Arab trying to survive in a difficult world.

Srour, the Writer and Director of Holy Air, plays “Adam,” a Palestinian living in the shadow of the Middle East conflict in Nazareth in the Galilee in Israel. His wife, Lamia, (played by Laetitia Eido) is obsessed with having a baby and his father is dying from cancer. As his father’s life winds down, Adam faces a dilemma with how to support his family.

Scene from the movie "Holy Air" produced by Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

Scene from the movie “Holy Air” produced by Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

Does he continue in his partnership, take over his father’s bottle making business, or does he do something else.

While contemplating this life-altering choice, Adam decides to pursue a unique business, selling an unusual souvenir to the Christian tourists who come to Nazareth by the hundreds of thousands each year. Already religious tourists find themselves inundated with many religious souvenirs including holy water, rosaries, religious icons, and more.

But Adam decides he needs something different, and using the small bottles his father’s company manufactures, takes the bottles to the top of a popular religious pilgrimage site, Mt. Precipice in Nazareth, where he holds the bottles in the air and seals them with the “holy air” from the mountain top.

As his wife’s pregnancy matures and his father’s cancer progresses, Adam navigates in the world of religious mafia, extortion, business jealousies, skepticism, politics, and the lines that separate Christians, Muslims and Jews in Israel.

Adam (played by Shady Srour) in the film "Holy Air. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

Adam (played by Shady Srour) in the film “Holy Air. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

The opening scene is one that will shock the sensibilities of conservatives in the Arab and Israeli communities, but it’s a scene that many couples experience in the excitement and anticipation of wanting a baby. Srour and Moskovitch, the producer, are not afraid to push the line using conventions some would consider taboo (or haram), but in reality offer a real-life perspective that reflects the truth of how many live and survive today in the Holy Land.

Here is a podcast interview I did recently with Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch, followed by some notes about the film.

You will definitely enjoy this film, which I saw with English sub-titles. It’s phenomenal and captures the reality of Christian life in the Middle East in a way you may never forget.

Bottle of "Holy Air" from the film of the same name by Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

Bottle of “Holy Air” from the film of the same name by Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch. Photo courtesy of Holy Air

PODCAST INTERVIEW OF FILMMAKERS

Click here to listen to an audio interview with Shady Srour and Ilan Moskovitch, or use the widget below to listen to the 30 minute interview:

Notes about the film:

“Holy Air” Challenges the sexual norms we fear that are common in Western films but hesitant in Middle East movies, especially those filmed in the Arab World. Srour received funding from Israel, but notes that filmmakers in the Arab World are subject to the pressures of those who are willing to support your efforts.

He received no support from the Arab World and his film has not been embraced by Arabs and Palestinians in the West who hug movies that champion their political views, but shun movies that suggest truths that they seek to avoid.

“Holy Air” forces audiences to openly discuss issues that they often only discuss in private; failing to talk about controversial issues promotes misinformation and results in radicalism.

There is hints of sexuality in the film, and even a moment when Adam enjoys a homemade sheesha pipe that he made from a plastic bottle that the audience can assume has some hasheesh. Adam is burden by worry: building a room for his new child, helping his father as he fights cancer, caring for his wife and mother, and finding a business that will put food on his table.

The cultural norms all come out in “Holy Air” and that is so important.

When a film touches on these topics in the context of a great story, you know the film is going to be good … if it is afraid to touch on everyday topics that we all deal with but pretend don’t exist, then the film won’t be good. But, Holy Air is not only good. It is great!

Holy Air
Shady Srour, Writer/Director
Ilan Moskovitch, Producer

Adam — Shady Srour
Lamia — Laetitia Eido
Priest Roberto — Samuel Calderon
Adam’s father — Tareq Kopty

Run Time 1 Hour 20 minutes

Official Film Website: www.samuelgoldwynfilms.com/holy-air

Watch the Trailer below:

Holy Air by Shady Srour – trailer from New Europe Film Sales on Vimeo.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania