“Mars at Sunrise …is an accomplishment” – Kenneth R. Morefield
Huffington Post Live
Director Jessica Habie, and co-stars Ali Suliman and Guy Elhanan join Mike Sacks in the Huffington Post Live studio. In a short clip, Guy gives his thoughts on the current state of the Middle East peace process. The full segment features an interview with the trio about their experience making the film.
New York Times
By Jeannette Catsoulis
“Mars at Sunrise” is a thoughtful and inventive look at a seemingly endless war. More than anything, the ambivalence written into the roles — and poignantly captured by the performers — seems to suggest that while taking sides is not impossible, it is almost certainly fruitless.
The Artist vs. the Soldier: Mighty Movie Reviews Mars at Sunrise
By Dan Persons
Habie takes an impressionistic approach to telling her story — fracturing the timeline for both combatants, frequently segueing into poetic interludes that delve into the characters’ psyches, and introducing a Jewish-American poet for Khaled to tell his tale to. Her goal, she’s said, was to avoid the clichés and stridency a more straightforward telling would engender. It works, although the flashback structure doesn’t seem completely necessary, and the fractured timeline at times obscures whether we’re watching how the characters wound up the people they are or how their states are evolving in the midst of the present narrative. There’s a certain benefit to a spare narrative, not the least being the lack of a comforting aestheticism to intervene between the drama and its impact on the viewer, no drumbeating necessary. Given what we understand of these people, though, the poetry is certainly well motivated, and doesn’t seriously undercut the anguish of the situation.
According to Habie, the artist Zurob initially rejected her gambit to make Khaled’s tormentor a fellow artist, only to come around once he actually viewed the film. It speaks well of Habie’s ability to generate empathy for all involved without failing to acknowledge their culpability in their actions. The complexity goes all the way to a post-flashback encounter between Khaled and Eyal, the gestures of both characters — and the fact that they could be interpreted several ways — speaking volumes about Habie’s understanding that no one tale is going to resolve what decades of conflict have spawned. The war will go on until enough people turn to their better wills to make it stop.
Ladies Take the Night At San Francisco’s Arab Film Festival
By Farah Jahan Siddiqui Bullara
Jessica Habie’s first feature film, Mars at Sunrise, is a deeply imaginative, bold meditation on the resilience of the human imagination and the triumph of art. While working as a documentary filmmaker in Palestine, Habie realized that a fresh approach was needed to communicate the Palestinian dilemma. The filmmaker became interested in exploring the relationship between artists and social change and was inspired by the renowned Palestinian artist, Hani Zurob. By including actual stories and testimonies and combining them with an experimental film style, Mars at Sunrise is a stark departure from the typical cinema verité narratives about Palestine. Habie’s abstract approach to the Palestinian/Israeli quagmire is bold and original. Using art to weave a surrealist, poetic storyline, which enfolds like visual free verse, Habie addresses both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through the eyes of two frustrated artists—one an Israeli soldier and the other a Palestinian prisoner. Both artists paint their own realities of lives dominated by brutality and show how each of them is victimized in their own way—the Palestinian as a victim of Israeli occupation and the Israeli soldier as a victim of his country’s oppressive military-industrial complex that produces oppressors.
Mashallah News: New Pathways in Contemporary Arab Cinema
By Shimrit Lee
While exploring testimonies and stories concerning discrimination, torture, and freedom of movement, the film is ultimately about the boundlessness of an artist’s imagination during a period of solitary confinement.
At the premiere screening during this year’s 17th annual Arab Film Festival (AFF) in San Francisco, Habie spoke to the audience about her motivation: “I’ve always been inspired by the relationship between artists and social change, what artists can say and how they can say things in different ways [to] provoke new ways of talking about a situation.”
Photography by Xavier Cunilleras