2020 | Dir. David Osit | 89 minutes
Reviewed by Vinicius Oliveira
“How do you run a city when you don’t have a country?”, this should be the main phrase to understand the whole “ungoverned” construction and the daily challenges of leading a city in the midst of occupation.
Mayor, is a documentary directed by David Osit which introduces us to the daily life of Musa Haddid, a middle-aged man who governs the city of Ramallah in Palestine. During this narrative, Osit brings an excellent balance between the drama of being in a position of power within a city’s territory and the humor focused on the mayor’s routine.
What makes the experience even more interesting is the way that Haddid’s human side is explored. Even if Ramallah has been occupied since 1967, Musa’s main challenge is to prove to all the citizens that a city is still a place that is worth believing in and it also makes all the people feel that they’re worth being in it. Some of the most brilliant scenes happened during a meeting with the mayor’s “marketing team” on a discussion about a slogan for the city (“We Ramallah”) and during a meeting to discuss Christmas night and all the activities that Santa would take on for his own “opening act”. Ramallah has a small Christian population, the celebration itself is embraced by the admirers of the holiday, including the mayor.
Even being “protected” from the daily violence that is present in Ramallah’s streets, Haddid is always being immersed in the chaos in a kind of “front line place”. That’s why some scenes show visits to the schools! They are there in order to make the audience understand the need for aesthetic improvements, the construction of a sewage base, and the importance of maintaining the city’s sidewalks. All these things prevent the mayor from feeling utterly at ease.
Osit turned the observational experience into a participatory one, and he also showcases all the veracity that has been in the narrative. The deconstruction of the gaze under a “different way to make movies” outside the American-European cycle further detaches our perception as viewers and as human beings. The human side explored in Haddid was transformed as a metaphor on the colored fountain in those last minutes that gave to those people some freedom, even if for a few seconds, Ramallah has never been so colored. Mayor is more than a documentary, it’s a lesson about the different ways of looking at reality. Haddid is the proof that it is possible to stay grounded and humble, despite the chaotic scenario they are in. The film honors the dignity of a ruler who seeks security in his allies and also portrays the experience of social care, leading the audience to a satisfactory 89-minute journey.