by marion schreiber for FILMbutton
DAVID a film by Joe Fendelman, is an authentic and very natural film about the Muslim & Jewish communities but not only. Since the first images, we enter in a little boy’s life (Daud) with an angel face looking with admiration (or wonder) at his father praying. We share his daily prayers on behalf of Allah and a checker game with his uncle, a pretty quiet life but eventful at the same time. This is because in the first minutes of the film we enter into this Muslim community in Brooklyn, NY. This community is trying to keep its traditions, in America, a country with totally different traditions as well as certain bias & prejudices. We can see the evolution of the society where some children from Muslim families prefer to play basketball than to pray all days in mosques. Daud is one of the children who must follow his religious culture and go the mosque every day since his father is an Imam. Things change quickly when Daud, during a walk with his little sister in a park, see a band of boys of his age have forgotten a book, this book is a very religious Jewish text.
Daud decides to return the book and goes to a Jewish neighbourhood in front of a school. His little sister loses patience, really wants to leave and runs home. In a hurry, Daud puts ,in the school’s mailbox, his grand-father’s Koran that his uncle gave to him a few hours previous to read. At this time, Daud’s life and his conception of religion starts to completely change.
The second part of this movie, takes place in the Jewish community where Daud has many questions. Due to the confusion with the books, Daud decides to go back to the school and get his Koran. Since he sees two Rabbis in front of the door, he decides to change his clothes to look more Jewish. He takes his courage in both hands and enters and finds it easier, surprisingly, than entering a mosque. As we continue to view Daud in his deception, a good amount of tension is built up for the audience. Obviously, a lot of this tension, for the audience, comes from the centuries old conflict between these two cultures and what would happen to Daud if he is found out. Finally the tension dissipates when we see how well Daud fits into this community and thereby forges a real friendship with a boy named Yoav. It’s at this moment, that we realized these are children despite there religious beliefs and are like any other children through out the world whatever there religion. So we follow this double life that Daud has created for himself, as a Muslim and a Jew.
When Daud is at home in his Muslim community, we see the importance of the Muslim religion & traditions to his father and thereby how the father’s beliefs shape everything in the household and community. At times, due to the practicing of these traditions and beliefs it could seem like they are living in a Middle Eastern country rather then America. We can see this difference very strongly when Daud’s oldest sister (Aisha) is accepted to Stanford University and her father refuses to let her go since she cannot leave the family home until married. At this point, an arranged marriage is set up which should allow Aisha to follow her dream and attend Stanford to become an engineer but the real purpose is for her to stay in NY and start a family. Aisha’s dream is crushed and Daud asks many questions and sees, first hand, the stifling authority of his father and his beliefs
In contrast to his time at home, when Daud is living his secret life as a Jewish boy he is able to enjoy what it has to offer be it time with his friends either talking, playing basketball etc ever mindful that, at some point, he must get his Koran and thereby face the fear of being unmasked. Daud has to juggle between his Jewish friends and his Muslim family. Between the expectations of his father to became a future Imam and his social life with his friends. When Daud is hosted by Yoav’s family to prepare an oral report for school the boys talk about their fathers expectations and we see all the boys do not want to follow in their fathers footsteps. They all have dreams but have been born into communities with large expectations and traditions of community and responsibility where religion is omnipresent.
This film is not about Daud’s lie and its revelation but its one of hope. This is shown best when we see Daud’s father sitting on the couch crying worried, due to Daud’s disappearance following a dispute between Yoav and his friends. It shows no matter if we are Muslim or Jewish everybody has a common value – importance of family. There is nothing stronger in both communities and it can be seen as a way for the communities to connect. Joe Fendelman’s created a touching film with a message that reconciliation is possible and friendship and respect can be gained between even the most seemingly opposite and acrimonious communities and that it is possible to break down this wall, too long, built between these two communities.
Marion Schreiber has a Master Degree in Cultural Management from University Aix Marseille III & a Master Degree in Communication and Events from La Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. Her passions include film, travel and anything to do with the Arts.