The Tarteer Family in Lyd | Icarus Films

Lyd Review: A Cri de Coeur for a Free Palestine

Doc chronicles a desire to reclaim the homeland

6 mins read

(Palestine/USA/UK, 79 min.)
Dir. Rami Younis, Sarah Ema Friedland


People once called Lyd the city that connected Palestine with the world. Now, people call the city Lod and say it’s in Israel.

Directors Rami Younis and Sarah Ema Friedland chronicle the very complicated history of the city and, in turn, a deep-rooted conflict that spans generations. Ambitiously tackling perhaps the most controversial geopolitical issue in the world, and doing so in under 80 minutes, the filmmakers offer a provocative cri de coeur for a free Palestine.

Younis and Friedland create a “speculative documentary” with Lyd. This moniker imagines what Lyd might have continued to be had it stayed under Palestinian authority. The city now stands as a marker of loss, while a desire reclaim the homeland endures for survivor. It’s a difficult and unflinching film, but also as hopeful and one could be in the current climate.

Lyd features a chorus of interviewees who look back at a turning point in the city’s 5,000 year history. People like Eissa Fanous tell how they survived the 1948 Nakba when the State of Israel established itself with the violent displacement of Palestinians. Fanous describes how Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians indiscriminately. He recalls encountering bloated and melting bodies of women and children. Fanous becomes visibly shaken while remembering smells he endured over 70 years prior. He shares his recollections with such graphic detail that Lyd almost assumes an olfactory quality. The film—which was shot, completed, and premiered prior to the events of October 7, 2023—finds echoes in the cycles of violence that continue to this day.

Other survivors of the Nakba look back in horror as they reflect on what the city has become today. While noting all the pain that marked the city and disrupted families, they share that Lod wears its violent past as a badge of honour. The long-disused Dahmash Mosque, for example, now sits adjacent to Palmach Square. The site carries the name of the Palmach, the elite military faction responsible for the ethnic cleansing. Lyd underscores this violence with a rare archival excerpt in which Palmach soldiers admit their role in the massacre.

Other interview sequences take audiences to the camps where families displaced from Lyd have lived for generations. The Tarteer family, for example, sees four generations of Palestinians crammed into one frame of the film as their matriarch describes memories of surviving the 1948 events. Other interviewees tell of the bureaucracy and policy that normalized displacement, like the United Nations’ efforts to tear down tents and build houses. New homes, the interviewees suggest, became symbols of the belief that Palestinians should simply accept their fate.

Lyd weaves between past, present, and future as the documentary offers a rhythmic look at the life cycles of the city. Drone shots observe daily life in the present as people drive through the city without care. In the settlement camps, however, descendants of former Lyd residents struggle to enjoy daily necessities.

Narration by Palestinian actress Maisa Abd Elhadi, meanwhile, considers Lyd’s potential as a Palestinian city for families of different faiths in interludes that give voice to the city itself. Her speculative voiceover complements animated sequences that imagine the city as prosperous and vibrant had it never fallen from Palestinian rule. In these scenes, one sees no evidence of the checkpoints and security perimeters that complicate daily life in the present.

Younis, a Palestinian, and Friedland, a Jewish American, make clear a point of view that a free and thriving Palestine is essential for peace in the region. However, they straddle the complexity of the issue relatively well, synthesizing and distilling very complex topics into a film that invites nuance to be part of the conversation without mincing words about the reality that created the present situation.

“Who doesn’t dream of returning to their homeland?” one interviewee born into the refugee camps asks. He shares with the filmmakers a hunger to return to a city that he knows only through stories. But his perspective illustrates that families don’t sever their roots easily. The film finds hope in the resilience of these families who refuse to give up their longing to replant said roots on their rightful soil.

Lyd is now playing in select cinemas, including Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

Previous Story

Cannes Review: The Falling Sky

Next Story

Highlights from Hot Docs Industry Conference 2024

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00