Salon review

Review of the “Huda Salon” – The Hollywood Reporter

Self or nation? Loyalty or betrayal? Stay or go?

These are the questions that go by Huda’s living room, the eighth film by Hany Abu-Assad. These are not themes unknown to the Palestinian director; his previous films, including the Oscar nominee Heaven now and Omar, explored similar questions with precision and sensitivity. Corn Huda’s living room, a tightly crafted political thriller based on real events, raises the stakes of these issues by applying them to Palestinian women, whose oppression under Israeli occupation is compounded by patriarchal forces within their homes and communities.

Huda’s living room

The bottom line

Clever and full of suspense.

Place: Toronto Film Festival (Platform)
To throw: Ali Suliman, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad
Director-screenwriter: Hany Abu-Assad

1 hour 31 minutes

Huda’s living room opens with a humorous and sympathetic bonding scene. Huda (Manal Awad), a stylist in Bethlehem, stands over her client, Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi), while running hot water through her thick black hair. As she puts shampoo in her hands and gently massages Reem’s scalp, Huda laments the state of the world. Business is slow because its regular clients, empowered by YouTube, think they can color and cut their own locks. Facebook allows these same people to share their poor efforts widely. It’s a mess.

Reem laughs and as Huda guides her from the sink to the living room chair, the conversation becomes more personal. Huda, with her voluminous coffee brown hair and red lips, asks Reem, who recently had a baby, when she plans to return to her job as a hairdresser. “You have golden hands,” Huda says of the young woman’s styling skills. A conflicted Reem confesses that she would like to open her own salon someday when her baby, Lina, is older – even though her husband, Yousef (Jalal Masarwa), would prefer her to stay at home.

The conversation, turned into an impressive continuous take and teeming with warmth, highlights the similarities between Reem and Huda, two sharp women with firm convictions. The palpable maternal bond makes it all the more difficult to deal with Huda’s shocking betrayal. As Reem continues to speak, Huda drugs her coffee and, with the help of a hired model (Samer Bisharat), drags the soon-to-unconscious mother into a room at the back of the store. Working quickly and efficiently, the salon owner undresses Reem, poses her in compromising sex positions next to the male model and takes a few photos.

When Reem finally returns, she is stunned and confused by Huda’s actions and the subsequent proposal: Reem must spy for the IOF secret service or Huda will show Reem’s photos to the jealous husband and family of the new mother. . But that’s not really a choice – for a woman in this community, the only thing worse than being a traitor is being seen as sexually impure. Frightened and shocked, Reem rushes out of Huda’s living room, which neither side realizes is being watched by the resistance.

From here, Huda’s living room picks up speed, becoming a fast-paced thriller centered on the interconnected destinies of the two women and approaching genre conventions. That evening, members of the resistance abduct a restless Huda from her home and take her to a dark underground hiding place to be interrogated by Hassan (Ali Suliman). Their conversation is coupled with a passionate exchange of ideas about women in Palestine.

Suliman, whom many will remember as Khaled in Heaven now, and Awad have an exciting onscreen dynamic that keeps the intellectual spar from succumbing completely to pretension. The intensity of their eye contact, restrained body movements, and the vigor of their random temper tantrums add a titillating layer to the conversation (it’s a spy thriller, after all), which swings relatively smoothly between beliefs. general socio-political and personal experience. on which they form.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of the interrogation is the possible effect that Hassan and Huda have on each other. Neither remains rigid, and the inclusion of those softer moments makes it easier to digest the moments when the script gets lost in its radical arguments. And, not to give too much, but Huda turns out to be a more complicated spy, whose alliance with the occupation is not as clear as Hassan assumes.

As Huda and Hassan argue in the lair, Reem finds himself in a cat-and-mouse chase with Hassan’s men. She realizes that she can’t trust anyone, and the isolation makes her more and more withdrawn and desperate. Elhadi, who played a young mother in Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri’s film 3000 nights, draws on the same anguish and here draws an equally moving performance. The story of Reem crescendos until it cracks near the end of the second act of the film.

Unlike his other films, Abu-Assad seems to show a more direct point of view in Huda’s living room, one who respects – or perhaps a better word is “revere” – the perspective of women. “Huda’s living room explores equality from the point of view, not of women being equal to men, but of men equal to women, ”he wrote in its director’s statement. “I believe we should be equal to the values ​​of women and not to the values ​​of narcissistic men.” With this feeling it is clear that Huda’s living room is a humble dedication to the existing and incredibly diverse artistic tradition that understands that the Liberation Garden will not thrive without eradicating its patriarchal weeds.

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