The crisis demands an appropriate response from Hadid, one that exalts Palestine’s fight without causing uproar with allies. Indirectly, “Mayor” is also an indictment of the international community’s inaction towards the occupation and inhumane treatment of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government. Foreign diplomats urge Hadid to make concessions and to think of a “both sides” solution to a situation with a clear oppressor that shows no desire to relent.
“It’s about dignity,” Hadid empathically states at such an ill-advised and humiliating suggestion. Still, a visit from Prince William—ironic considering England is the former colonial power responsible for igniting the current issues in the Middle East—reminds him and his team of how important, though insulting, it is to maintain an image of openness to cooperation. A montage showing Hadid speak at numerous international events, one of them in Washington D.C., reinforces the distinct public relations aspect of his position.
As a character, Hadid exudes nonchalant determination and shrewd candor, which on more than one instance yields humorous zingers. Yet, though worthy of admiration for how seriously he takes his responsibilities as a government official and the lengths to which he goes to fulfill them, he stays at a distance emotionally. No photos of him as a young man or anecdotes from those who knew him in his early days in politics make their way to the screen. Snapshots from Hadid’s home life with his children, and his love for playing the piano, provide a small peek of the man off the clock. While likely by design to tacitly separate the professional from the personal, there’s a lingering desire to learn more about who he is. Near the end of Osit’s astutely potent and structurally dynamic doc (thanks surely in part to editor Eric Daniel Metzgar), an edge-of-your seat sequence involving Israeli soldiers and the mayor himself raises the stakes exponentially and places the viewer in the middle of an all too common occurrence for Ramallah residents. “Mayor” doesn’t feature an impassioned speech detailing the Palestinian people’s ardent plight for freedom because it doesn’t need one. Watching the confrontation in near real time, with lives on the line—a testimony to Hadid’s utmost commitment and hands-on leadership—conveys a forthright message.