The city of Ramallah, just a few miles north of Jerusalem, is the cosmopolitan cultural centre of Palestine. David Osit’s Mayor (2020) follows Ramallah’s Christian mayor Musa Hadid as he strives to achieve lives of dignity for his citizens whilst battling Israeli occupation. Mayor provides a glimpse of everyday life in a city under occupation, the strength and resilience of Ramallah’s citizens and their unwavering commitment to freedom.
Mayor follows the everyday life of Hadid as he oversees the daily running of Ramallah, moving across the city (sometimes literally) putting out fires. Hadid must deal with the seemingly everyday trials of local governance, managing complaints from citizens, holding meetings to discuss Ramallah’s ‘city’ branding and beyond. He is a well-loved figure in the city, greeted warmly by kids and adults alike whenever he is spotted on the streets.
But any sense of normality in local governance is made almost impossible by the hardships of occupation. Ramallah’s government is still in recovery from Israeli forces invading the city in 2002 and any attempts to build new infrastructure the city so desperately needs are blocked by Israel. Ramallah cannot for instance build a sewage plant to ensure essential sanitation for the city and were only granted a cemetery after 15 years of Israeli deliberation.
Israel’s occupation of Palestine is also felt through the more immediate threat of violence from the surrounding armed Israeli settlements. Mayor captures the surreal nature of life in the city where any semblance of recognisable normality – citizens going for dinner or the council erecting a Christmas tree, are haunted by the spectre of violent state oppression.
Armed Israeli forces are almost omnipresent in Mayor harassing and violently abusing civilians, the film’s climax even sees Hadid holed up in City Hall as the Israeli army raid a restaurant and shoot an unarmed journalist.
And yet life somehow goes on for Hadid and for the people of Ramallah. In an early scene, Hadid attends a local garage where a small fire has broken out. As the fire spreads a mechanic attempts to douse the flames with only a hose. This image seems to speak to the unique challenges of Hadid’s Mayorship – a constant struggle against a regime whose force and resource dwarfs his own.
In the wake of the devasting escalation of Israel’s onslaught of Gaza and violent enforcement of occupation and apartheid Mayor provides an opportunity to learn about the struggles of Palestinians under occupation.
Watch it now on Mubi or rent it in all the normal places.