James Dean and Me

Institute History


In the days leading up to the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy watches Rebel Without a Cause in a small movie theatre in Nazareth. Although they come from entirely different worlds, Yacoub discovers parallels between his own life and James Dean’s in the film and attempts to embody a similar character despite his ill-fitting environment with its turmoil and uncertainty.

A sense of war resonates throughout his village as an Israeli army base, overlooking the town, expands every day. This feeling of hostility is more and more present in the ever-deepening rift between Yacoub and his weak and ostracized father, who is viewed as a coward for abandoning his home in the last conflict with the Israelis.

Yacoub defends himself as well as his father’s tarnished reputation through an ongoing battle with Shamshoun, the village bully. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Yacoub’s crush since childhood has been Shamshouns’s only sister, Yasmeen.

As a result of his clash with Shamshoun and his father’s shame, Yacoub is widely viewed as a troublemaker and an outcast in the village. Like so many impatient and reckless teenagers, he discovers that he does not fully grasp the true nature of his surroundings. Yacoub begins to realize that his imagination, which once identified with the idealism represented by an American icon, has also led to the destruction of his spirit—and had a lasting and devastating effect on the people close to him.

And then the 1967 war begins…


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