‘Mayor’ Review: Leading a City With the World Watching
The director David Osit’s documentary “Mayor” indirectly deals with the prospect of Palestinian statehood by looking at the concept of a state — the workings of government — at the city level. An early scene shows Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah in the West Bank, discussing municipal branding: How can the city get residents to identify traffic lights, sidewalks and street signs with local governance? One of the funniest moments in a surprisingly funny film involves whether a slogan should have a space: “We Ramallah” or “WeRamallah,” so that the “R” can be read as a pun on “are”?
But in Ramallah, Osit’s film shows, city issues inevitably become global. Building a sewage treatment center in the West Bank isn’t easy. Hadid describes civic gestures in nationalized terms: “Tonight, we must remember to make space for joy until we get freedom and independence,” he says at a tree-lighting ceremony. Osit’s camera is present when Hadid is haphazardly filled in on the Trump administration’s plans to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem. That decision led to protests (and the un-lighting of the tree). Hadid tries to get a read on the politics of a 2018 visit by Prince William.
A disarming subject, Hadid comes across as a cleareyed, forthright leader. But “Mayor” also stands out because Osit has thought it through in cinematic terms: He knows when to dwell on a striking image (such as Hadid examining a painting of Jerusalem on his global travels) and when to let a counterintuitive soundtrack selection play through.
Not rated. In Arabic and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. In virtual cinemas.