Review: “Mayor” offers an often overlooked insight into the Israel-Palestine conflict

The poster for David Osit’s 2020 documentary “Mayor.” Image credit: Tribyounal,

Nathan Miao, Contributor

In David Osit’s 2020 documentary “Mayor,” Musa Hadid navigates his role as the Christian-Arab mayor of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank.

The film’s focus ranges from following the inconsequential inner workings of municipal government in a funny, “Parks and Recreation” manner, to Vice News-style video journalism. At times, the film is lighthearted, and at others, it shows the stark reality of living at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Toward the beginning of the film, President Donald Trump announced his 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy there. Much of the rest of the film details the aftermath of this announcement, including protests and Israeli police retaliation.

In one memorable scene, Hadid asks Osit whether Americans are aware of or even care about the conditions that Palestinians live under. The film strives to show how people living in conflict zones still have to live their daily lives.

As mayor, Hadid leads a metro area of about 150,000 inhabitants. However, his government is unable to deal with problems such as sewage running in the streets because he requires Israeli approval to build a sewage treatment plant.

Another, smaller conflict portrayed in the film is the division between the West Bank and Gaza. The two Palestinian territories have been ruled separately after a brief civil war in 2007.

At one point, a young boy asks Hadid if he is with Fatah or Hamas, Fatah being the ruling party in the West Bank, founded by Yasser Arafat, and Hamas being the militant Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that reigns in the Gaza Strip. Hadid responds with neither, saying that he is with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the secular left-wing minority party.

Yet, the focus of the documentary is not the different conflicts surrounding Palestine; the real story is about the little day-to-day aspects of life as human beings. The central storyline of the film is the rebranding of Ramallah, as Hadid and his city council discuss how to bring in more tourism. A thread throughout the film is the design of the city’s new hashtag: #WeRamallah.

Osit’s film is funny, is gripping, is insightful, and provides an often-overlooked perspective into the Israel-Palestine conflict. “Mayor” is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel, or it can be watched on-demand.