Issa is a 60-year old fisherman living in Gaza. He’s never been married, but one day he announces that it’s finally time. His sister is excited and arranges a string of eligible spinsters to present themselves to him so he can choose one. But he really only has eyes for one woman – a local seamstress called Siham.
The trouble is, the two have barely talked. Issa nervously approaches Siham at the bus stop but is then largely lost for words. In town, he offers her the use of his umbrella and asks if she’ll shorten some trousers for him. She normally only works on women’s clothes, but seeing as it’s him, she’ll take it on.
Meanwhile, a subplot happens. While out fishing, Issa catches a metal statue in his net. At first, the face looks slightly feminine until you look downwards at the prominent erect penis. Issa smuggles the statue past the security guard and hides the statue in his wardrobe. As he is moving it, it falls to the ground and the penis snaps off.
The police find out about the statue. They search Issa’s house, arrest him and confiscate the statue. While he’s stuck in a cell together with dozens of other men, they’re negotiating with museums to see how much money they can get for it. They won’t release Issa until he signs a document which makes him liable for a big fine if he gets in trouble again.
Issa’s wooing campaign starts to get a bit stalkery. He follows Siham home and hangs around outside before not daring to knock on the door. He asks her to take 5cm off his trousers, which is way too much, so when it’s done she’s too embarrassed to ask him for any money but he insists that she take what she thinks is a fair price from a handful of change.
There is another subplot about Siham and her daughter. The daughter is a student with an aggressive haircut. She’s been married once already, so is viewed as damaged goods. She occasionally helps her mother out at the shop, but only until the constant rows get too much for both of them.
Issa tells his mate about the love of his life. They were only kids but he decided that they should get married. He took his father to her house so he could ask for her hand in marriage. She said that she was engaged already. His father was enraged – not because of the mix up but because her family were too bourgeois.
Every so often everyday life in Gaza intrudes. There’s the police corruption of course, but also the electricity which keeps flickering in and out. Everyone’s struggling to survive and Issa’a mate is planning on leaving, but Issa would find it too hard to leave his home. There is one scene in which there is a ceremony to worship a missile, but like so many other scenes in the film, it feels like something that has been added on and has no real connection to the plot.
Gaza mon Amour is full of vignettes like these. I think they’re supposed to be funny, but they’re never more than slightly wry. It all feels a little too slight, too insubstantial. Maybe I’m missing some deep underlying metaphor that brings it all together, but in the end it doesn’t feel to come together into a coherent whole. These are little stories, which is fair enough, but nothing of any weight.
I’m sure if you work hard enough, you can tease out significant metaphors about life under the dual threat of Israeli bombs and a fundamentalist government. All the characters are genial, and its nice enough spending time in their company. Maybe asking what it’s all supposed to mean is the wrong question, and you should just lie back and let it flow all over you. If you take that as your starting point, it’s ok. Definitely ok.