Sand Storm (2016): A Story of Bedouin Women

The film Sand Storm, directed by Elite Zexer, tells the story of a Bedouin family in Israel, focusing on the mother-daughter relationship between Layla, played by Lamis Ammar, and her mother Jalila, played by Ruba Blal. The movie opens with Layla’s father, Suliman, teaching her how to drive on the outskirts of town. Layla is clearly close to her father, who allows her to have an education in addition to driving, something evidently not typical for women in Bedouin society. When the two arrive home, the audience is introduced to the dynamic between Layla and her mother, showing their relationship as less close. Layla is presented as a girl who speaks her mind, and wants to be independent, while her mother, Jalila, is the traditional Bedouin with and mother who stays quiet about any grievances she may have.

The conflict in Sand Storm begins when Layla must adhere to Bedouin tradition, by giving in to an arranged marriage despite loving a man from another tribe, and when Jalila can no longer stay quiet about the life she wants for herself and her daughters, ultimately getting herself banished towards the end of the film. Sand Storm ultimately features a look into Israeli Bedouin society while depicting the nuances of a mother-daughter relationship grappling with how these very traditions affects there lives completely.

The audience can tell within the first few scenes of Sand Storm that Bedouin society i very much so patriarchal, and the fact that Suliman allows his eldest daughter to drive outside of town and go to university, is abnormal. However, Suliman decides to marry a young women, which visibly upsets his first wife, Jalila. One of the beautiful details of the film is how

Jalila, played by Ruba Blal, expresses the anger and sadness she experiences after Suliman’s marriage, with barely having to speak throughout the entirety of the film. When she can no longer accept living in a house that is lesser than that of Suliman’s new wife’s, while taking care of her four daughters, Jalila lashes out in anger and is forced to leave her family and live at her parents’ house in exile.

This is when Layla feels distant from her father and understands her mother, and the traditions of life that have been weighing her down for years. Layla manages to drive her sisters to her mother, where Jalila tells Layla to leave, because she doesn’t want her daughter to have the same life she has. Layla begins to drive and meet the boy she loves, when she turns back and makes and agreement with her father that she will marry the man he wants if he takes back Jalila and takes her out of exile. The movie closes on Layla’s wedding night, where she meets the man she has been arranged to marry.

By the end of the movie, the audience feels defeated by the traditions of Bedouin society and patriarchy. We witness Jalila’s voice and opinion suppressed to a point where she can no longer hold it in, while Layla loses the love she wants for herself and gives into generational tradition. The mother-daughter relationship that appeared strained at the beginning of the film, now relate to each other in a way that ended up bringing the two closer together through small moments of connection depicted throughout the film.