Films & Schedules

  • Laila's Birthday
    Eid Milad Laila

  • Rashid Masharawi

Palestine/Tunisia/ The Netherlands
72 minutes

Production Company:
Sweetwater Pictures/CineTeleFilms/Cinema Production Center/Fortissimo Films
Executive Producer:
Wouter Barendrecht, Michael J. Werner
Mohamed Habib Attia, Peter van Vogelpoel, Rashid Masharawi
Rashid Masharawi
Production Designer:
Al'a Abu Ghosh
Tarek Ben Abdallah, Nestor Sanz
Pascal Chavance
Issa Qumsyeh
Kais Sellami
Principal Cast: Mohamed Bakri, Areen Omari, Nour Zoubi

International Sales Agent:
Fortissimo Films

Saturday September 0606:30PM AMC 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Monday September 0805:45PM AMC 9 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 1309:30AM VARSITY 7 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Life in an occupied territory is never easy, but who knew it could be so beautifully absurd? Drawing from everyday tales of contemporary Palestine, director Rashid Masharawi, whose Ticket to Jerusalem screened at the Festival in 2002, concentrates his focus on a single day, crafting a wry comedy about a father, his daughter and the chaos all around them.

It is the morning of his daughter's birthday. Abu Laila has promised to bring home a birthday cake to celebrate, but first he has to make it through the day. He sets out with his briefcase and steps into a taxi – which he drives. This is just the first of many incongruities. Abu Laila must explain time after time during his day, “I'm a judge, but actually I'm a taxi driver.” An esteemed member of the judiciary, he was invited to practise in Palestine, but bureaucracy has kept him from gaining his papers. So he supports his family by driving a taxi.

It's not the humiliation that drives him crazy, it's the chaos. Abu Laila is a functionary. He is adamant that passengers fasten their seat belts. He insists on no smoking. He refuses passengers who jump into his cab with AK-47s slung over their shoulders. With his thin moustache and watery eyes, Mohamed Bakri has a dour, proper face built for comedy. He looks like Buster Keaton and moves through the dusty, ramshackle setting with the fastidiousness of Chaplin's Little Tramp. In fact, silent comedy may be one of the strongest influences in Laila's Birthday, even if it is a mobile phone that sets off one of the film's best chain of gags.

Masharawi embeds the politics of his context under the surface. True, Abu Laila must endure armed clients, bomb scares and raging arguments about occupation, but mainly he just wants everyone to behave. When at last he makes it home and is asked how his day was, the payoff is just perfect.

Cameron Bailey

Rashid MasharawiRashid Masharawi was born and raised in the Shati refugee camp, Gaza Strip, and is a self-taught filmmaker. In 1996 he founded the Cinema Production and Distribution Center (CPC), which offers workshops to young Palestinian filmmakers. The CPC also initiated the Mobile Cinema Project, which brings screenings to refugee camps. His credits as director include Curfew(93), Haifa (96), Ticket to Jerusalem (02), En directe de Palestine (02), Arafat, mon frère (05), Attente (05) and Laila's Birthday(08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award