Write Down, I am an Arab
Israel/Palestine, 73 min.
Dir. Ibtisam Mara’ana Menuhin
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)
“I don’t like to represent. I barely represent myself,” says poet Mahmoud Darwish in Ibtisam Mara’ana Menuhin’s evocative documentary Write Down, I am an Arab. Menuhin’s artful reconstruction of Darwish’s words and actions brings the poet to life in a stirring collage of interviews and archival footage. Within this wealth of material is a 1996 interview that posits Darwish’s own voice as an authorial narrator of his own story. Write offers an appropriately poetic portrait of this influential voice.
The presence of Darwish’s own voice is essential, for the range of material Menuhin presents consistently underscores the poet’s influence in shaping both individual and collective identities. The centrepiece of the film is an excerpt of Darwish reading his provocative poem “Identity Card” and his passionate reading rings with a hunger that echoes in every cutaway to contemporary Palestine. The poems remain relevant as peers and past lovers read excerpts of Darwish’s poetry, and they illuminate the passions and the politics that live between the lines.
Another notable thread features Darwish’s past Jewish-Israeli lover Tamar Ben-Ami. Tamar tells of their passionate forbidden romance and her story highlights how love, much like the words of Darwish’s poetry, transcends borders, politics, and religion. The romance between Darwish and Tamar bookends the film with a tale of Casablanca-ish tragic love, but there is ultimately hope and optimism to be gleaned from their allegiance. The intricate embroidery of the film gives one a strong sense of the both the man and his poetry, and ultimately teaches how much easier it is to love than to hate. Write Down, I am an Arab doesn’t even need to reference P.B. Shelley to convey that poets like Darwish are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”