In a fictional story about the challenging relationship between religious Muslims and Jews, writer-director Joel Fendelman manages to avoid stereotyping and over-simplifying both communities in his debut feature, David.
The film tells the story of 11-year-old Daud (newcomer Muatasem Mishal), the obedient only son of a Muslim imam living in Brooklyn. Amongst his peers, Daud, who proudly wears his thobe and spends most of his time studying the Qur’an, seems to be an outsider. His older sister, meanwhile, dreams of studying computer engineering in California, and escaping her family’s strict, religious lifestyle.
One day, when Daud finds a copy of the Tanakh at the park, he intends to return it to the local Jewish school, but accidentally slips his own Qur’an into the mailbox instead. When he tries to make the switch, Daud is mistaken by the Jewish community for one of their own. Disguising himself as “David”, Daud happily goes along with the mix-up, spurred by his own curiosities about Judaism and the approval of a new group of friends. However, when Daud develops a close friendship with one particular Jewish boy, his secret identity becomes increasingly difficult to keep.
Fendelman captures the fearlessness and impartialness of childhood candidly, and even when the film touches on ideas like patriarchy and arranged marriage, it does so without feeling contrived or biased. David is honest and relatable, and ultimately triggers a response of tolerance and compassion.
The Vancouver Jewish Film Festival presents David on Friday (November 9) at 7 p.m. at the Ridge Theatre (3113 Arbutus Street).
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.