A.K.A. Nadia by Tova Ascher is a hard-hitting and effective Israeli feature film which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival this past week. It is a complex narrative statement about issues of identity, racism and intolerance. Can we shed our past or our identity the way we shed clothes at the end of the day?
Nadia is a Palestinian teenage girl whose boyfriend, Namer, is being sent to London (apparently for terrorist activity). She decides to marry him secretly and follow him to London, where they live separately, due to the dangers of his work. One day when she is out, her landlady is picked up by the police and Nadia is afraid to return home. Unable to locate her boyfriend, she eventually finds a job in a laundry, saves enough money and goes to buy a forged passport so that she can return home to Palestine to her mother. She ends up buying a real passport which belonged to a girl who, together with her entire family, was killed in a terrible crash. The only problem -- her new identity is Jewish Israeli.
Fast forward 20 years -- Nadia, now called Maya, is living in Jerusalem, married to a lawyer who is involved in the right-wing government, mother to two teenagers, and works as the director of a dance company. She is passing as Jewish and tries to keep away from political discussions. For all intents and purposes, we see a typical Israeli family. When Maya's past comes back to haunt her we realize that one cannot live forever hiding one's past.
In a very difficult and tumultuous scene, she goes to see her husband in his office, sitting across the desk from him, as if she is a client coming to seek legal advice, and begs for them to live "as if nothing has changed". But her husband is no longer capable of seeing her as the woman he loves. His eyes see a stranger, an Arab woman. One might have thought that we could transcend such definitions.
A.K.A. Nadia is a superb film with complexity of plot and narrative tension. An Israeli-U.K. co-production, the film is available from Go2Films.