When the Tribeca Film Festival gets into full swing, one may feel somewhat overwhelmed. There are movie world premieres, panels, red carpets, special one on one talks, virtual reality extravaganzas, and much more. The Spring Creek Sun was on hand to capture the event’s best offerings, bringing you reviews months before the films will be released in cinemas, photos of the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, and interviews with the celebrities themselves. This week we are starting off with a review and red carpet cover-age of Holy Air, a film that takes a snapshot of a culture, one not so different from our own.
Being New Yorkers, we know what it’s like to be surrounded by vendors selling their tourist memorabilia. We—the grizzled residents—roll our eyes and shake our heads at the man touting his “I heart New York” T-shirts and the woman brandishing her Statue of Liberty handbags, yet we don’t often stop to consider these street merchants as peers. We denounce them as swindlers and irritants.
Holy Air teaches us to be more thoughtful and respectful through the guise of a wily street peddler’s comedic misadventures. Adam has a remarkably novel business idea, —selling nothing at all. However, before we discover the circumstances leading him to this line of work, we need to pull back the curtain and examine his per-sonal life. It’s not an easy one by any means. His father is confined to a hospital and is rapidly ailing, his wife is pregnant and is told that she only has a 50/50 percent chance of making it to full term, and his business is failing. With this toxic mix stewing in his brain, our protagonist drives to a hilltop looking onto Nazareth’s Mount Precipice. It is at this point, down on his luck and depressed, that an idea strikes him, just as a crowd of Christians encompass his car.
“Breathe the holy air!” a priest shouts to his flock, arms raised. Adam realizes that if the faithful will travel all the way to Nazareth and climb Mount Precipice’s summit to breathe in its air, perhaps they will also buy it. With this innovative and mischievous concept in mind, he begins taking small bottles to the mount’s peak and lifting them to the heavens before plugging them with a cork. So, Adam rattles through the streets of Nazareth accosting holidaymakers with his bottles of “holy air.” To his own surprise, people buy his bottles in bulk, regarding them as the perfect memento from a divine land. Thus begins a wild and humorous journey into an unfamiliar business venture and an analysis of religious profiteering.
While this film highlights some truly laugh-out-loud moments, such as Adam engaging in a brawl with a fellow motorist wielding a samurai sword during one of Nazareth’s many traffic jams, the more emotionally sober segments are not overshadowed by this humor. Through Adam’s eyes we see a man struggling with his place in life, desperate to not only provide for his unborn child to be, but to also prove to himself that his harebrained schemes can and will work. Anyone who has ever struggled to overcome adversity or fought to achieve a goal can effortlessly connect with Director and writer, Shady Srour’s central character. Similarly, his wife, Lamia, is a robust female lead who is without a doubt the most stable-minded individual we come across. She is funny, progressive, spearheads a foundation for women’s rights, and is the pillar holding Adam up.
Like any journey through life, Adam and Lamia, revel in strides, cry at grief, and breakdown at hardships. Through it, we come to understand the amusing side of it all. The residents of a land ravaged by sexism, war, and poverty can still stand up and laugh in the face of misfortunes, then we can and should too.
Holy Air is not to be watched as an average romantic comedy. The regular moviegoer may find the narrative dreary. However, to those interested in learning about a culture operating on a legend and a man forced to live off those seeking it, Holy Air is an amusing and thought-provoking 81-minutes. Photo: Dean Moses, & Tribeca Film Festival