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A House in Jerusalem: Film Reviews by Ye Kai & Kymberly

A House in Jerusalem: Film Reviews by Ye Kai & Kymberly

On the eve of Labour Day, CinemaWorld hosted a mesmerising film screening event in Singapore that left our audience captivated and inspired. Seated amongst the audience that evening were two special guests whose insightful film reviews for A House in Jerusalem add greater depth and nuance to the cinematic experience. 

*The film reviews may contain plot spoilers, reader discretion is advised.*


BY Ye Kai

It’s hilarious, it’s scary, yet it’s emotionally evoking with its political message.

This May, Cinemaworld showcases the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. 

I’m sure fellow Gen-Zs would have heard the term “The Indomitable Human Spirit” whether from memes or coming across it in books. It represents our innate optimism to always stand strong against the cruel indifference the world has to offer. Hence, the fitting name for the mystery screening, AGAINST ALL ODDS.

A House in Jerusalem is Palestinian filmmaker and producer Muayad Alayan’s third feature film. It follows Rebecca and her father moving to her grandfather’s house in Jerusalem after her mother’s traumatic death. The film starts as a spine-tingling horror before taking a 180 turn into an almost comedic yet deeply profound film. A well-structured narrative entangled with war-torn themes, Muayad Alayan explores his Palestinian heritage through the film. We enter the perspective of Rebecca, dealing with her loss and trauma while guiding someone else out of their suffering.

Rebecca, played by Miley Locke, explores the aftermath of an attack by Israel with a child spirit, Rasha, played by Sheherazade Farrell. With Rebecca and Rasha helping each other through their personal trauma, Muayad Alayan pulls together a form of collective grief and a sense of heartfelt warmth. The film reinforced the idea of standing together and sympathising with each others’ pain and problems. 

“A child's innocence is the one gift, that once stolen, can never be replaced.” This quote by Jaeda Dewalt perfectly captures the essence of the film. With Rebecca disobeying her father, and trying to help Rasha reunite with her family, we see her childlike innocence glimmering alongside her sympathising self. 

An enriching politically themed work, the film draws cohesive traumatic experiences with various characters. It creates multiple relationships in the film that bond throughout the narrative arcs, empowering audiences to feel compassion for the characters’ harsh, painful experiences. 

A House in Jerusalem premiered in 2023, a perfect time to also highlight the current world affairs regarding the conflict between Palestine and Israel. It captures the essence of the conflict well, especially showing it through the eyes of an innocent and pure child. Muayad Alayan made use of how versatile a tool filmmaking is to leave audiences impacted through his storytelling. I urge more people to catch this film through CinemaWorld's platform.




BY Kymberly



Whether we seek solace in the four physical walls of our house, uncover our true selves in a faraway land, or are kept grounded by the loved ones we surround ourselves with, the definition of home has come to mean more than windows, doors and walls. There is an important distinction between house and home: the latter is where — or who — we feel safe enough to be raw, authentic with; somewhere we can be vulnerable; somewhere we can grow up and grow old. 

But what happens when you can’t go back home? A House in Jerusalem starts with a move away from the familiar and into the unknown. Young Rebecca (Miley Locke) and her father Michael (Johnny Harris), mourn the loss of Rebecca’s mother Rachel (Rebecca Calder). Though relocating to Jerusalem, their ancestral homeland, from England offers a promising new start for Rebecca on paper, the wound is as nowhere close to healing as it was one year ago. But as the duo settle into an old house in the Valley of the Ghosts, they realise it’s not just them and their grief that inhabits the space — there is the spirit of a pale, dark-haired girl with mournful eyes, unseen by everyone save Rebecca. And the two are unwelcome intruders.


At the hands of director Muayad Alayan, A House in Jerusalem begins with the suspense and skin-crawling unease of a horror movie. A vintage doll floats into view in brackish, still well water; wet footprints are strewn around the house, left by neither Rebecca nor Michael; and drawers are rummaged through, tossing belongings every which way. But just as the darkness yields to the dawn, the terror gives way to the enduring powers of strength, kindness and empathy. As Rebecca and the spirit — Rasha (Sheherazade Makhoul Farrell), a Palestinian girl waiting for her parents to return — eventually, gain the other’s trust and friendship, they build a comradery that is sturdily forged, unflinchingly tested, and becomes the beating heart of A House in Jerusalem. This bond spurs the daring Rebecca to uncover Rasha’s fate and that of her family, sending the former on a fateful journey in and around Jerusalem that transforms their lives forever. 

With a delicate touch — never resorting to melodrama but instead opting for quiet but no less emotive moments of introspection — writer Rami Alayan expertly charts the film’s progression with poise and a steady hand. Skillfully blending the themes of loss, trauma, and heritage with the broader Israeli-Palestinian sociopolitical context, Alayan manages to harmonise these elements alongside the seamless transition from a horror film to a rich, nuanced drama complemented with historical and social commentary, deftly balancing each narrative component while propelling the story forward.

The main cast builds on the writing to breathe life into the screenplay, imbuing their characters with unparalleled richness and emotion. Most commendable are the performances of Locke and Farrell, who embody their characters with remarkable finesse, conviction and maturity beyond their years. Locke exudes palpable tension through the first act of the film, adjusting to a new language, environment, and the grief she deals with all alone. Her portrayal of a wounded yet resilient Rebecca never slips into overacting, maintaining an authentic emotional depth throughout. As Rasha, Farrell’s ability to convey a complex range of emotions despite playing a ghostly figure. Through her expressive eyes and nuanced body language, she communicates a deep sense of longing, sorrow, and even a hint of mischief, adding layers of depth to her character that go beyond the supernatural elements of the story. 

Together, they make a flawless pair. Despite the circumstances in which they draw close, the friendship is a welcome addition to the film. It’s thanks to their natural dialogue and the compelling chemistry they share on screen that their scenes together are among the film's most heart-rending, captivating — and even humorous — moments. 

While A House in Jerusalem deftly confronts weighty themes — especially timely given the humanitarian crisis in Palestine — the film interweaves moments of profound humanity and strength, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring resilience of the human spirit amidst conflict, fear, and mistrust. In a world filled with seemingly endless strife and division, the film ignites a spark of hope. It rekindles a belief in the transformative power of empathy and understanding, building bridges amongst division and how the smallest act of kindness can be a significant step towards dialogue and reconciliation. 

About the Critics:

Kymberly has always been an avid traveller, eager to explore countries, worlds and universes both real and fictional. Drawn to film and literature from a young age, she has a passion for understanding the human condition across different places in time, and especially enjoys watching documentaries, period pieces and dramas. When she doesn't have her nose in a book or gaze glued to a movie, you can find Kymberly rooting for her favourite sports teams at the top of her lungs, spending time in nature or wandering around Singapore, exploring with her friends.

Find Kymberly on Instagram @kymftay

Ye Kai is a dedicated film geek who loves leaving the cinema with his feelings evoked. Apart from creating visuals as his day job, you can find him with his electric guitar, force-reading literature and probably obsessing over cinematography.

Find Ye Kai on Instagram @cineyekai / Letterboxd @yekai 

We know you have been itching for the photographs taken at the event too! They are now up on our Community Page, along with the event video. Do tag us @cinemaword_asia on Instagram and Facebook when you share your pictures!

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