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(Holy Air from writer/director Shady Srour [which Samuel Goldwyn is releasing theatrically on November 17] was a winner at this year’s Jerusalem Film Festival and also screened at Tribeca among many other festivals. It is in theaters now…)

Is it a sin to make a quick buck at the expense of a religion’s influence among the masses? In his newest satire, Holy Air, writer and director Shady Srour walks the crowded streets of Nazareth, Israel as Adam who struggles to find success and support his family in one of the hottest tourist trap cities in the world. While on Mount Precipice, convinced his luck has run out for good, Adam creates a clever solution to his financial woes when he watches a local priest preach to a gaggle of tourist: why breathe the holy air when you can take it home with you in a bottle for a single euro? Srour recognizes the religious commercialism rooted in Nazareth but is unsure of where to weave it into the dominate storyline of family longevity stuck in the 21st century Holy Land.

Shady Srour understands every satire needs a simple plot to serve as the basis from which the characters and the comedy can flourish. The first thirty minutes of the film well establishes the day to day routine Srour’s Adam follows to the letter. He dodges conversations about his wife’s pregnancy; He exhausts any professional contacts he has to make it as a successful businessman, and he does what he can to make sure his father’s final days are at least passable.

Not a second of the first act is wasted. You relate to Adam’s desperation to find balance in his life. In fact, you relate to his plight so much that when the satire rears its head at the start of the second act, you wonder why Srour didn’t pursue the storyline of a man searching for prosperity for the remaining hour.

The satire in Holy Air doesn’t add to the characters’ drama but instead rolls in as a surprise drive-by shooter, disrupting the flow of a genuine family drama. Time spent on random spurts of comedy could’ve been time spent on fleshing out side characters and plot points that should be holding your interest. Put the screenplay through a couple unrelenting revisions and perhaps Shady Srour will find the controversial satire he wants to disrupt the hypocritical spiritual system that runs Nazareth.

– Patrick Howard (@PatHoward1972)

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