“3000 Nights” beautifully portrays human condition

Mai Masri’s latest film reveals protagonist’s struggle with love and resistance.



Justin Yun, Writer

Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri’s most recent film on the plight of a Palestinian schoolteacher imprisoned in an Israeli detention center transcends the divisive politics of a much wider conflict and showcases the most fundamental elements of the human condition.

transcending the divisive politics

3000 Nights” centers around Layal, played by Maisa Abd Elhadi, a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher who discovers her pregnancy after being detained for a crime she did not commit. After unknowingly giving a ride to a teenage boy who committed an act of terrorism against an Israeli military checkpoint, Layal finds herself sentenced to eight years — 3,000 nights — in a prison whose inmates include both Israeli and Palestinian detainees.

The film portrays Layal’s plight in the city of Nablus in the West Bank during the 1980s. While a mere hint to the setting and timeline of the story may naturally point to a much bigger and more violent conflict still ongoing today, the film’s importance lies in its ability to liberate itself from the sensational and agenda-driven nature of many political films created by Hollywood today.

Layal gives birth to a baby boy after being pressured by the prison director and her estranged husband to have an abortion. The power of the film predicates on the striking juxtaposition of a woman giving birth to new life in an environment whose essence is constructed on controlling and debilitating life. Childbirth and raising a child in a prison become acts of defiance and resistance both against the prison authority and inhumane prison conditions.

Love and freedom

Love and freedom also become two major elements of the film. The first element of love translates from a mother and her child. The second element of love is displayed by the reconciliation Layal shows with her fellow prisoners — both Israeli and Palestinian. The protagonist’s humanity is shown when she befriends two of the most polarizing characters in the prison.

After saving the life of an Israeli heroin addict from a drug overdose, Layal befriends the woman who treated her inhumanely on her second day in the prison. The kindness reciprocates when the former drug addict is able to recover from her addiction and empower Layal when she goes on a hunger strike with her fellow Palestinian prisoners. While the prison segregates Palestinians and Israelis, this small kernel of kindness and solidarity shown between the protagonist and her Israeli counterpart is able to break away from the influence of a much bigger conflict fueled by both national and ethnic tension.

While not a documentary, almost every facet of the film has basis in real life experiences. Abdul-Razeq Farraj writes in an article in Mondoweiss on how the film reminded him of the experience he had as a prisoner of multiple Israeli prisons. The film is not only powerful because of its historical relevance but also because it tells a story of love, freedom and kindness in a place built to discipline and stifle the human individual.

In a time of global violence and hatred, films such as “3000 Years” showcase the power of positive emotions and actions.

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