In a documentary with a dash of fiction, we enter the mind of the elderly Hiam, a Palestinian woman from Nazareth. We see her at the hairdresser’s, waxing her upper lip and shuffling her way to bed. The mundanity of everyday life acquires extra layers of meaning because the filmmaker Juna Suleiman—her granddaughter—accompanies many scenes with internal monologues from Hiam. Gradually we gain a picture of her past: her marriage, her family and her wealthy brother, who bears the remarkable first name of Mussolini.
Hiam’s life is nearly over. Just a few threads are left to connect this lonely and embittered woman with the outside world: the telephone, the TV, her housekeeper and her 55-year-old son Mbadda. Like Hiam, he’s blunt and sarcastic. The question rises as to when the present becomes history, as fragments of TV news gradually transition into old footage of a wedding. Through the protagonist’s oppressively small world, Mussolini’s Sister takes an original and restrained approach to large themes, such as arranged marriage, loneliness, decline and racism.