It is hard enough to direct a film, but for Iris Zaki it seemingly wasn’t enough. Besides directing this 35 minute short documentary she also plays the role of the hair washer, listener and conversationalist. Despite the fact that she was juggling all these roles none suffer and the film is an engrossing watch.
For this film Zaki learnt all the required techniques in being a shampoo girl in a hair salon. She then set up a camera above the hair washing sink at a salon in Haifa, Israel called Salon Fifi. A salon is where women flock to in order to feel better about themselves. This type of environment and mindset seems to open them up to discussing a variety of subjects while having their hair washed. When Zaki starts washing the women’s hair it pretty much turns into a therapy session. They unburden themselves of whatever is on their minds.
Israel is a multi-cultural place with Jews and Arabs living there. Living together, but not in harmony. The salon selected was done so purposely because it is one that both Jews and Arabs go to. Fifi is in the Arab section of town, but the owner is welcoming to Jews as well, which is not always the case.
The film opens with Zaki washing the hair of the Christina Arab woman Nawal. They engage in conversation of how when she was growing up in Haifa that Zaki was taught to fear Arabs. Nawal is somewhat horrified though she does admit that she grew up hearing that Jews wanted to kill all Arabs.
Despite the fact that the camera is suspended right above their heads the women seem to pay it no mind and talk freely. Actually the position of the camera is of a great benefit to the film in that it concentrates on their face and eyes rather than clothes, body type, etc. Each woman is given three minutes of camera time and as such no one dominates.
Zaki does definitely direct the conversation to subjects that serve the purpose of her film. Questions often have to do with religion, culture or discrimination. Despite her opening of the subjects Zaki in no way “tampers” with the discussion. She allows her subjects to tell their own tales. The result is a surprise in that many women portray Haifa as an open society in which each of the two cultures is able to move through life freely. It results in a film that shows there might be hope for a harmonious Israel society.