Mais Darwazah / 2013, Toronto, Boston Palestine Film Festival, CPH:DOX, Dubai, Festival International de Cinema Feminino Brazil, Frauenfilmfestival / 80'
Hasan Hourani, a Palestinian poet and illustrator, died aged 29 in Jaffa while trying to rescue his nephew from the sea. Shortly after, the filmmaker Mais Darwazah discovers his drawings and poems and feels drawn to Hourani's world— a universe outside space and time; a place of wonder, discovery, and freedom. Motivated by this kinship, Darwazah embarks on a journey to her homeland, Palestine: a place she has never known.
A poignant personal journey through the labyrinths of hope and despair, occupation and freedom, My Love Awaits Me By the Sea chronicles both the harsh realities of life in occupied Palestine and the power of creative imagination in shaping one's destiny. Mais Darwazah's first feature documentary premiered at CPH:DOX, Dubai, Toronto, Ismailia International Documentary and Short Festival, where it won the Jury Prize; Festival International de Cinema Feminino, where it won Best Documentary; MedFilm Festival, where it won Best Documentary; and FEST New Directors/New Films, where it won Best Documentary.
"A poetic meditation on what it means to be denied the chance to participate in a collective memory of normal life, this is a moving, intensely personal essay inspired by the late artist/author Hasan Hourani's life and work, seen through Darwazah's experiences as a second-generation Palestinian making her first trip to the homeland"
"Ultimately, this is a film about the accommodations and choices that we all— but especially those living with exile or occupation— have to make, between dreams and daily life, and the risks that following dreams sometimes entails"
"Palestinian director Mais Darwazah's documentary My Love Awaits me by the Sea is an epic love story. However, unlike most love stories, Darwazah's has not met the man she has fallen in love with and never will. His name is Hasan Hourani, a Palestinian artist and poet who died several years before she had even heard his name. In her documentary, Mais and Hasan, like the fish and the bird, transcend their different worlds to briefly but beautifully meet in the realm of make-belief"
"A poetic, first-person essay film, My Love Awaits Me by the Sea is a voyage of discovery and reckoning that contemplates the meanings of belonging, nostalgia, affiliation and love. Along the way, Darwazah spends time with her own considerations of Palestine, and with various Palestinians and their chosen forms of resistance. The result is a quietly meditative consideration of how we all have the opportunity to construct our own lives on our own terms"
"With lingering shots, composed frames, and a melancholy piano score, Mais' film takes one on a journey to her Palestine, chronicling her first-ever visit there, to a Jaffa devoid of oranges, an unknown ancestral Nablus, and a Jerusalem where beauty thrives beyond walls"
"Darwazah uses archival photos, original footage, drawings, watercolors, Hourani's poetry, and interviews with young Palestinians to produce a mosaic, by turns elegiac and sobering, of how she sees her homeland. She pays homage to something ineffable— the individual's fight against suffocation and numbness— by creating borders both personal and political. The filmmaker moves through the landscape of Palestine for the very first time, and the viewer is never orientated, nor formally introduced, to the subjects they meet. We only know the subjects' names and where they live, plus a small bit of their biographical histories. The film is a portrait of lives and journeys in medias res"
"Amidst Darwazah's exploration of the self, trying to interpret her connection to this territory and conflict, she interviews various locals about the state of Zionism and martyrdom, capturing an abundance of inflamed invectives and impassioned thoughts regarding third-party motivations. These interviews are exceedingly candid, framed with a handheld camera and often interrupted by Darwazah, either encouraging controversial opinions or bringing the subject back to herself, giving a very personal, almost stolen and potentially incendiary feeling to these fleeting discussions"
"Among an impressive array of Palestinian films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival is My Love Awaits Me by the Sea, the first feature-length documentary from Mais Darwazah. Having discovered the work of the Palestinian artist and poet Hasan Hourani through his children's book Hasan Is Everywhere, Darwazah— of Palestinian heritage but born and raised in Jordan— falls in love with the man who came to symbolize the dreams of the occupied Palestinians"