There are not very many movies where you find yourself worrying about whether a suicide bomber is going to get found out; whether they’re going to succeed. Seems counterintuitive, knowing that this person is aiming to take out a number of innocent people along with themselves, why should we care if they get caught? Don’t we want them to get caught? To stop the violence?
“Rabia” unveils such an emotional conflict for the audience by telling the story of a young woman named Rabia (Hanieh Jodat) who has agreed to be a suicide bomber for a Palestinian general intent on killing as many Israelis as he can. The short follows Rabia’s final hours as she prepares for the attack and undergoes the intense travel to the attack site, a public beach. During the trip she encounters border patrols, a reluctant accomplice and her own memories over the last ten years which paint a picture of a woman marginalized, whose life has become forfeit to herself and, therefore, unworthy of anything other than a final statement; the ultimate defiance against all she has known.
What is truly unique about “Rabia” is how much it is both about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how much it is about a woman coming to terms with her life in a fundamentally misogynistic culture (her worth broken down to whether she can make babies or not). Despite the fact that Rabia has explosives trapped to her, a compatriot who is supposed to drive her to her target decides that the attack is too important for a woman to undertake, and begins to back out. Rabia convinces him otherwise with some aggressive negotiations and a switchblade, but the fact that the conversation even takes place, at that late in the plan, shows that it’s hard out there for a suicide bomber, especially if she’s a woman.
It would be very easy to dismiss this film out of hand, especially if you have strong political feelings about suicide bombings and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because this is not a film about someone who is being victimized. Rabia is not being forced into doing anything she has not 100% committed that she wants to do, even down to the final minutes. Any sympathy or redemption for her character, even in her final seconds, are entirely up to the audience’s personal beliefs. It is a testament to Jodat’s strong performance that the audience finds itself in such an emotional, moral quandary to begin with.