(into:Screens) TIFF 2021: “Farha" Review
Based on true events.
Set in 1948 Palestine, Farha tells the story of a 14-year-old girl (Karam Taher) whose dreams of receiving a formal education are taken away from her due to the start of what would come to be known as the Nakba (the catastrophe). Confined to a small supply room, Farha watches as the world she knows crumbles apart and must find the strength within herself to carry on despite her dire circumstances.
Right out of the gate, it must be said that Farha is an achievement not just in storytelling, but acting, directing, and commitment to preserving historic events from the perspective of those involved. It is incredible that this is writer and director Darin J. Sallam‘s feature film debut because everything here just works. Outside of the performances, Sallam’s attention to detail with their directing is one of the reasons the story is as poignant as it is. Each scene is allowed to breathe which in turn emphasizes the emotional weight each character bears. Of course war has a negative impact on us all and is an extremely emotional experience, but Sallam really helps to delve into this in such a nuanced way that by the end of the film, there is no point in resisting the urge to say “whoa”.
While Sallam is very expertly driving this car, the awe-struck feeling the audience should be left with is no doubt coming from our star, Karam Taher. Astonishingly, Farha is also Taher’s feature length debut and, like Sallam, she expertly navigates the emotional and physical demands this role was written for. Farha, unlike the other girls in her town (that we know of), sees herself not as an object to be married away but rather an equal to every boy given a chance at formal education. She has a stubborn heart and a wit about her that sets her apart from others, for better or worse. It’s these very qualities that make her such an engaging protagonist and it’s Taher’s talent that ensures you will be sticking around to see Farha to the very end of her journey.
While not knowing much about the history around the Nakba, it is very clear that Sallam and their team took the time to portray just a fraction of this historical event in a way that will have you doing some quick internet searches to find out more. The story of Farha (whose name is not actually Farha) was a great way to explore this event while also recounting an amazing tale of resilience. My only wish is that they would have provided historical photos or additional info prior to the credits rolling to really finish the story that Farha had started.
Farha is a story about love, hope, and a young girl’s determination to survive. Through expert direction and emotional performances, this film is a must watch and will hopefully help launch the careers of everyone involved.
4 1/2 Stars