The new film “Write Down, I Am an Arab” promises to tell the story of Mahmoud Darwish’s love affair with Tamar Ben-Ami, the young Jewish woman the poet apparently fell for when he was 22:The film was made by Ibtisam Mara’ana Menuhin, a Palestinian woman in Israel who is married to a Jewish man (in a marriage not recognized by the Israeli state). It had its Israeli premiere at Tel Aviv’s DocAviv film festival last month, where it won the Audience Award, and its world premiere at Toronto’s HotDocs festival.The official trailer:

According to the official website:

In 1964 [Mahmoud Darwish’s] defiant poem, “Write Down,  I am an Arab,” lands him in prison and turns him into an icon of the Arab world. At the same time, he meets and falls in love with Tamar Ben-Ami, a young Jewish-Israeli. He sends her intimate love letters in Hebrew which she keeps secret for decades. The affair ends when Tamar joins the army.

And from Journal of an Ordinary Grieftrans. Ibrahim Muhawi:

—I didn’t talk of love. My words were vague, and I didn’t understand them until she slept. She used to sing a lot, and I didn’t understand her songs except in dreams. And she’s beautiful! Beautiful! The moment I saw her, the clouds lifted from my mind. I snatched her away to my house and said, “Consider this love.”

She laughed. Even in the darkest hour she laughed.

I used to call her by a borrowed name, because that is more beautiful. When I kissed her I was so full of desire between one kiss and another that I felt I would lose her if we stopped kissing.

Between sand and water, she said, “I love you.”

And between desire and torture, I said, “I love you.”

And when the officer asked what she was doing here, she answered, “Who are you?” And he said, “And who are you?”

She said, “I’m his sweetheart, you bastard, and I’ve come with him all the way to the gate of this prison to say goodbye. What do you want with him?”

He said, “You should know that I’m an officer.”

“I too will be an officer next year,” she said.

She brought out her military induction papers. The officer then smiled, and pulled me away to prison.

Commentary and reviews:

Point of ViewREVIEW: Write Down, I am an Arab

Ha’aretz: When a Palestinian national poet fell in love with a Jew

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