Abed Aljafari installed a surveillance camera in front of his house in Ramla, Palestine in July 2006 to see who’s been repeatedly vandalizing his car. That’s the main intentions for this footage but the reasons behind this film, the work of Abed’s son Kamal Aljafari, are more vague yet fascinating. The younger Aljafari warps these images from 2006 and closes up on some details, achieving a pixelated look. The pixels representing the humans passing by a parking all become suspects, and assigning this suspicion feel like an act of viewer’s projection. This is a minor personal investigation for a small crime. But it reflects on larger themes involving and affecting the lives of Palestinians during the 21st century. Living within a state under occupation and apartheid can turn individuals against each other. Or sometimes, the camera reveals a lot about the people in front of it, especially things they fear.
A lot of this feels like Avant Garde 101, but it still sticks for the most part. Every encounter that two people have in front of the camera feels like an illicit secret. When the camera catches something more innocent, like a kid flying a kite, we feel that innocence. And that’s more precious since again, that kid lives in occupied territory. There’s another risk in watching all films in that viewers can see it as a national metaphor but that’s especially true here. An Unusual Summer underlines this truth through a child’s narration describing things like trees and sand. We sometimes see those things on screen, but descriptions of nature remind us that the camera’s limits reflect that of the people it captures. These people aren’t free like the wind of the trees that the child is describing. This film, then, is a wish for a free Palestine.