Let’s paint a picture of a municipal council in any small city: its members want to keep the streets clean, encourage visitors and raise the area’s profile. Mayor captures a few months in the life of Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah, a largely Christian city in the West Bank. The film begins in December 2017, and the council are planning an event to light the big Christmas tree in the centre. Here and there a muezzin can be heard singing the call to prayer from a mosque.
Amidst this picture of apparent peace, Trump announces his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Protests arise throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and in Ramallah Israeli soldiers shoot a child in the leg; as mayor, Musa must deal with the consequences. Can they light the Christmas tree at a time of national mourning? Is it dangerous to keep the festive lights on at night? One councillor suggests they erect a glowing sign on the tree with a statement like “Jerusalem is Palestinian.” Musa shakes his head: a municipal council doesn’t get caught up in national politics.
The beauty of Mayor lies in its everydayness. In the evenings, Musa’s daughter sits on the sofa with her MacBook and he plays the keyboard in the next room, bobbing in time to the music. He is a family man with a sense of humour, and it is heartwarming to see how he seems to just get along with everyone. Nonetheless, it’s a hard existence for the citizens of Ramallah – it’s clear the occupation bleeds into all areas of life, whether it be in the sewage in the streets, or soldiers stripping a grown man in public and storming the city with guns. Living in the West Bank means always being aware you are oppressed. The feature shows the progression from minor irritation to mortal fear that percolates in the minds of the city’s residents.
Still, Musa exudes a sense of calm that is beautiful to watch. He comes across as a highly intelligent man and, despite everything, he takes life with a pinch of salt. His optimism is infectious – we can’t help but feel soft inside when, the morning after an altercation, municipal workers clean up the streets, fixing breakages and smoothing over cracks in the walls. They continue to take care of their home. It’s a hopeful image.
Mayor is released digitally on demand on 1st January 2021.
Watch the trailer for Mayor here: