TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Ibrahim: A Fate to Define’

TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Ibrahim: A Fate to Define’

A combination of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell and Kazuo Hara’s The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, Lina Al Abed’s debut feature is a painfully introspective interrogation of past traumas. The titular Ibrahim Al Abed, the director’s father, was secretly a member of a militant Palestinian liberation faction, who disappeared in the late 80s during the director’s youth. In her search for why, Al Abed unravels complexities far beyond what simply happened to one man.

One extremely poignant shot in Ibrahim: A Fate to Define is of a still photograph of Ibrahim, blurry at first, then gradually shifting into view. In some senses, this is a microcosm of the larger film, in which Al Abed slowly unearths details about her father one interview at a time. With each progressive anecdote and descriptive feeling, the picture of a man willing to die for a cause methodically sharpens into focus. What progresses is an atmosphere of mystery that makes this film a compelling experience. You will find yourself engrossed in the mystery of what happened to Ibrahim Al Abed, and feel the need for answers that you know may never come.

Al Abed’s film mostly progresses through talking head style interviews. Friends and family members alike offer their take on what they believe happened to Ibrahim. The only unexpected downside is that some of these interviews prove compelling than others. But this is still a gut-wrenching doc that poses numerous tough questions it may never be able to answer.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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