There are plentiful documentaries about the challenges, peculiarities, and even comedy of municipal-level politics. Placed within the context of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, such issues are magnified a hundredfold. That’s just what David Osit does with Mayor, which follows Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah, the de facto capital of Palestine.

One of the most striking things about the film is how it highlights the importance of elements of urban organization which many may take for granted. Sewage is an easy example of a vital component of government infrastructure, and it’s a constant problem for Hadid, since the city must get permission from the Israeli government before it can build the new waste treatment plant it needs. Of course, more violent examples of the injustices of occupation arise, including a tense climactic military maneuver within Ramallah. Overall, though, the film is filled with a surprising amount of good humor, such as with a debate over appropriate Christmas celebrations in the city. At times, Mayor almost feels like a very dark version of Parks and Recreation.

Mayor is now playing in virtual cinemas.

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Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.



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