By turns comedic and Kafkaesque, this fly-on-the-wall doco observes the fortunes of Ramallah, an epicentre of Palestinian commerce and culture, and its tireless mayor, whose work to better the city is met with danger and frustration.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
Shadowing the likeable, assiduous Musa Hadid on his day-to-day leadership of the West Bank’s de facto Palestinian capital, Mayor is a grounded portrait of a municipality in action, and a not-so-average tour through the practical realities of life under occupation. From its calmly matter-of-fact perspective, the charming mundanity of local body politics contrasts harshly with the geopolitical minefield that is the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Ramallah, perched only a few miles north of Jerusalem, remains conspicuously in the crossfire.
Shooting over two years during Hadid’s second term, director David Osit’s roving camera finds riveting drama in the juxtapositions between dryly entertaining council meetings, city plans for Christmas celebrations (roughly a quarter of its citizens are Christians, Hadid among them), an official visit from Prince William, and the heavy blow of Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The gravity of the situation pulls into sharp focus during sudden moments of military engagement, but it’s the grace and good humour of Mayor Hadid, whose city continues to thrive against the odds, that gives this documentary a stirring life force of its own. — Tim Wong
“Gripping and surprisingly witty, Mayor [is] an acutely observed you-are-there procedural about a modern metropolis that dares to exist… Considering all the hardships that surround the borders of Ramallah – among them is the threat of armed Israeli settlements that don’t shy away from being hostile, as depicted later on in Mayor – you can’t help but root for Hadid’s success, and grasp the significance of his reputable status amid a diverse population who might not have the opportunity to travel far, but still deserves to have access to urban perks and conveniences.” — Tomris Laffly, Variety
About the Filmmaker
David Osit is an Emmy Award-winning documentary director, editor and composer. Selected filmography: Thank You For Playing (2015), Building Babel (2011).