This Bedouin drama won the grand jury prize at the Sundance festival, “Sandstorm” was an Israeli candidate for the Oscar, and this film was chosen as the best in Israel in 2016. Feature film debutant Elite Zexer sets this equally humanist and feminist film in a Bedouin village in the Negev desert in southern Israel, and although the title may suggest that it could be a story set in an open space, it is a poignant and emotional drama that takes place mostly behind closed doors. It is a film that criticizes the local tribal customs and patriarchy, told from the perspective of a woman, or rather a girl, Layla (Lamis Ammar), who will rebel against it.
“Sand Storm” is another in a series of films with powerful and strong female characters who rebel against dullness, tradition and everything that already goes with these backward communities and who is ready to risk everything to live the way she wants, not the way one would think that she should. And this Israeli shot a complex and not at all superficial, but therefore authentic and realistic drama about the life of the Bedouin community, which seems to have found itself in a split between modernity and tradition. Although they still adhere to some ancient customs, they do not shy away from some modern things such as mobile phones and cars, so in the opening scene, Layla receives lessons in driving in the desert from her father Suliman (Hitham Omari). While she is not in her village, Layla is probably not too different from her peers because she goes to college, but she still cannot escape from tribal customs and traditions.
So we see that Suliman is planning to take another wife, and it is customary that his first wife and Layla’s mother Jalila (Ruba Blal) has to prepare the wedding. Although she is not very happy that her husband has found a younger woman to share the house with, Jalila sticks to tradition, and by chance she finds her daughter’s cell phone, from which she learns that Layla is in a secret relationship with a college colleague. And what may not seem controversial to us, is a serious problem for Layla, since the tribal custom is such that not only do women have nothing to talk about with men they don’t know, but also their fathers arrange marriages with some guy from the village. It is clear that Layla will find herself in trouble because of this, because she wants to marry the young Anwar, who will soon come to ask her father for her hand in marriage, and although it is obvious that Suliman loves his eldest daughter, customs and tribal rules are much more important to him. .
Layla’s decision to rebel and not agree to what is asked and expected of her will bring a rift in her family, and although at first it seems that her mother is on her father’s side, Jalila will prove to be perhaps the most interesting film of this anthropologically interesting movie. From the beginning, Jalila is aware of what awaits Layla if she opposes her father and decides to go against customs and some unwritten old rules, but she is also aware that times have changed and wishes her daughter happiness. Jalila knows how Suliman will react when he finds out about Layla’s romance and that there is not the slightest chance that he will go against the customs. She also doesn’t want Layla to lead a life like hers and for her only meaning in life to be having children and blindly listening to her husband and fulfilling all the requirements and rules that everyone has been following for centuries. Together with Layla, her mother will also rebel against these tribal rules in her own way and will finally decide to show disobedience and opposition to a life that she herself probably did not want.