Movie of the Week: Tale of the Three Jewels (1995)

The first movie to ever be filmed entirely in the embattled Gaza Strip, “Tale of the Three Jewels” weaves a touching tale of a boy’s love for an older Gypsy girl with the harsh realities of Israel’s brutal occupation. Yusuf is a twelve year old boy in the Gaza Strip who lives mostly a typical boy’s life. Yusuf’s father, however, has been imprisoned for crimes that are not explicitly stated in the film, though we assume that they have to do with the Palestinian resistance to which Yusuf’s uncle belongs.

Yusuf falls in love with a ravishing but mysterious girl from the Gypsy quarter. To obtain her hand in marriage, he must find the three jewels missing from her grandmother’s necklace. Oddly, he must travel all the way to South America to find them, not an easy task when even travel to Israel or Egypt requires special permits.

Michel Khleifi, a Palestinian born exile, clearly hopes to show Gaza as it is, without demanding pity. As an exile, Khleifi must have clandestinely filmed the “Tale of the Three Jewels.” Khleifi made the film shortly after the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, when a far-right, American born Israeli settler opened fire on Palestinian worshipers, killing 29 and wounding 125 more.

The anger toward Israel is evident in scenes of conversations between locals. What’s also clear, is the disappointment in the Palestinian diaspora. Several scenes feature a blind man, whose children reside in Canada. They phone from time to time, but send no money to their impoverished father.

“Tale of the Three Jewels” is an odd film, and often it is unclear as to what type of film it wants to be. However, the mesh of fiction and reality work well to demonstrate the brutality of Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, the level of unpredictable violence at the hands of the Israeli army and the poverty that results from Israel’s strangulation of resources to the residents of Gaza. The fairy tale story of Yusuf’s love shows that life goes on, even under reprehensible levels of violence and marginalization.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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