“Who here believes it’s acceptable to marry outside of your faith?”
The question was posed before a screening of the latest Romeo and Juliet takeoff, “David and Fatima,” at the Laemmle on July 16. About 50 hands went up—a combination of some that shot up like rockets and those of a more timid crowd who, after looking around, decided to put their hands halfway up in the air.
The man behind the question, Jordan Elgrably, had—like any good emcee—ulterior motives. Elgrably is also the director of the Levantine Cultural Center, the local organization that calls itself a “nexus for Middle Eastern/North African and Mediterranean cultures.” After seeing the response, Elgrably joked that the “good half” of the crowd who support interfaith couples should band together, and the others who don’t should sit together, shunned.
In “David and Fatima,” the Montague and the Capulet clans become the Aziz and the Isaacs, setting the stage for a battle of the two faiths. So, as would be expected, by the end of the film, both actors lay lifeless on the screen. But the cast and crew came back to life for a Q-and-A session.
The movie got its backbone from director Alain Zaloum, who got the gig by responding to an ad on Craigslist seeking a director. Zaloum, who later rewrote the script to his liking, joked that since he was director number seven, the cast and crew was for the most part already attached to the project.
“It was a very angry script at first,” he said of the original. He wanted something that he could put love into, but also something where everyone “felt a sense of tragedy at the end.”
Although the movie has undertones of Muslim-Jewish conflicts, almost everyone involved in the film’s making agreed that it is a love story. And for the critics who felt that the movie plays into the stereotypes of Jews and Arabs, those who made it had a strong message:
“As long as [these conflicts regarding interfaith marriages] happen, films like this can be made and should be made” said Cameron Van Hoy, who plays David.
Martin Landau, who plays a crazed rabbi, echoed Van Hoy’s sentiment by reminding the audience that stereotypes persist because they are repeated by society.
“The ultimate message in this film is that love prevails, and love is number one. Love is God,” said Danielle Pollack, who plays Fatima.