David Osit’s documentary Mayor focuses on subject Musa Hadid – Mayor of Ramallah. The historically Christian city is the administrative centre of the Palestinian state, though under Israeli occupation. Mayor follows Hadid’s planning of a Christmas festival, while attempting to bring the plight of occupied Ramallah to the world stage. It’s also set against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s decision to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, which causes insurrection in the region.
Despite being a documentary, one could consider this film a dark comedy. It’s real life, but while the subject matter gets very heavy, there are sequences that are laugh-out-loud funny. City council meetings discussing city branding where it’s clear that nobody in the room knows what that means. Other meetings concern the planning of the Christmas festival involving zeppelins and multiple Santas repelling down walls. These scenes are straight out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, except that they’re real.
Hadid is quite the character; funny, likeable, charismatic – and most interestingly in our current political climate – not concerned with poll numbers or praise. He’s just trying to do the right thing for his constituents.
We see his team meeting with a German envoy trying by proxy to broker an understanding between Israel and the government of Ramallah. Hadid fires back with an argument for the dignity of his people, and it’s incredibly powerful.
The climax involves an Israeli assault on the city which is terribly intense, while Hadid holds up in Ramallah’s City Hall. It fully encompasses the strife of the region in a few short minutes that are quite harrowing. Further, the ending of the film is absolutely beautiful, inspiring, and hopeful.
Mayor is a wonderful film that exposes issues that Westerners may not be familiar with. It’s a fun, eye-opening documentary that I encourage everyone to watch.