To put it simply, Screwdriver is a movie by director Bassam Jarbari about a man nicknamed Screwdriver, who spends 15 years in an Israeli jail for murder. But this is not a simple movie by any stretch of the imagination.
The opening scenes are set in war-torn West Bank; a group of friends are playing basketball. But even this game has undertones of danger as there is a war raging around and the boys are constantly on the lookout for bombs or guns. In the midst of this heightened tension, Screwdriver (played by Zaid Bakri) cuts another, which earns him his moniker.
The claustrophobic camera work exaggerates the emotion in the film and it is this microscopic treatment that gives the movie strength. The group of lads are inseparable and spend their days playing basketball, drinking and smoking. When one of the group is hit by a sniper in a remote car park in the hills, the friends are gutted and seek revenge on a random motorist they encounter.
Zaid is sent to prison for this murder and after his release is hailed as a hero. No-one is aware of the inhumane conditions he suffered during his incarceration and when he is surrounded by a journalistic mob on his release he is overwhelmed. A reporter trying for a newsworthy quote remarks that his silence says many things. However his silence is confusion and fear.
Settling back into daily life is as much of a nightmare as his time away. An old flame tries to rekindle a relationship. An old friend offers him a job. In which he causes trouble and loses the friendship. Social workers try to “cure him”; in reality the world that he left behind is so different to what exists today that he struggles to adapt.
This is more than a biopic of one man and his struggles. What Zaid is experiencing is symptomatic of one who has undergone great trauma. No one can understand his issues and he lacks the ability to express what he is feeling. A chance encounter with a street artist who is transforming the bleakness of the ghetto is the only hope of redemption. Even this idealistic young artist speaks of the opposition he faces from townspeople who don’t want to see the place improved.
The movie sympathetically exposes the impossible plight of one man and makes the viewer reflect upon the trauma experienced by whole communities at the hands of war. How can the outside world understand? How can the wounds heal?
Screwdriver is a powerful movie that echoes around the mind for long after the viewing. It’s certainly not an easy movie to watch but one with an important message that deserves to be heard and is dealt with sympathetically.
Screwdriver is currently playing at the Mercury Cinema as part of the OzAsia festival until Nov 2nd.