"A Borrowed Identity": An Arabic Film

By: Anjali Patel

I was in the mood to watch a foreign film so I decided to go on Netflix and see what was available. I came across an Arabic movie named A Borrowed Identity. The film revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and particularly follows the main character, Eyad. Eyad is a Palestinian boy who goes to Jerusalem to attend school. The school he attends mostly comprises of those who identify themselves with Israel. The film highlights the obstacles and encounters Eyad faces as being a pariah due to political and cultural differences at a place where he is receiving his education.
While feeling like an outsider in his own school, Eyad still manages to meet a few interesting people. One significant character that ends up becoming Eyad’s close friend is named Jonathan. Like Eyad, Jonathan also feels isolated from his peers. Jonathan is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a condition that Mayo Clinicdescribes as, “a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.” As a result, Jonathan has to often rely on others to help him get from place to place and sits in a wheelchair. Like many teenagers, Jonathan enjoys listening to metal and rock music. Although Jonathan’s muscular dystrophy makes him more relatable to Eyad as they both feel like they are different compared to the other students, Jonathan’s most unique quality is his humorous nature. When Eyad first meets Jonathan, Eyad asks if Jonathan was born with muscular dystrophy. As a response, Jonathan jokingly asks if Eyad was born as an Arab. Throughout the movie, Eyad and Jonathan exchange several stereotypical comments with each other in a fairly lighthearted manner. At first, Eyad seems to get a bit confused when conversing with Jonathan because Jonathan’s tone is sarcastic to a point where it is somewhat difficult to distinguish when he is being serious and when he is not. Jonathan’s nature definitely adds a unique layer to the film as his jokes give insight into the stigmas people attached to other people.
Another significant person Eyad meets is Naomi. Naomi is one of the few individuals at school who is comfortable talking to Eyad and reaches out to him as a friend. They end up falling in love which of course, is not easy for them to express in public. Eyad, who identifies himself as a Palestinian who speaks Arabic, and Naomi, who identifies herself as an Israeli who speaks Hebrew, are both afraid to tell their parents that they want to be together. At one point during the movie, when Eyad comes back home from Jerusalem, his mom catches him on the telephone talking to Naomi. His mom suspects that something is up but instead of telling Eyad’s father and blowing the situation out of proportion, we get to see her empathetic side as she smiles and pretends as if she did not hear anything. The film portrays various obstacles Naomi and Eyad face - not just in the external world in terms of their encounters with other people but also in the internal world where they are trying to clearly define their own identities.
Overall, A Borrowed Identity is an interesting film and while the idea of two lovers from “opposing parties” is a cliche concept, the way the movie executes their story and introduces other characters seems fairly practical and even a bit realistic. As the mother was not upset when she found out about Eyad and Naomi talking, it went to show that not every circumstance where there is some kind of overlapping will immediately lead to a blown out conflict. A lot of the time, on the micro level, these types of taboo situations occur more often than one may assume. Perhaps it is this element of slight realism that makes this film stand out.



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