The plot to Ave Maria is as improbable as it is provocative. A Jewish settler family crashes their car into a statue of the Virgin Mary at a Palestinian Carmelite monastery in the West Bank.

Bound by the onset of Sabbath, the Jews can do little to get home. Bound by a vow of silence, the nuns can do little to help. Bound by mutual distrust and annoyance, the odd couple pairing can do little but bicker. Fortunately, spellbound by the comedic touch of 34-year-old producer Basil Khalil, critics around the world can do little but laugh.

This 14-minute short (trailer below) already won top prizes at film festivals in Grenoble, Montpellier, and Dubai before securing a nomination for best live-action short film at this year’s 88th Academy Awards.

Ave Maria is Khalil’s second comedic venture into the deeply divisive and often somber portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict. His 2005 Ping Pong Revenge illustrated the cycles of misery each side inflicts on the other, but in the style of a satirical musical.

Khalil’s short film is not the only recent cinematic foray into the lives of Middle East Christians. The widely acclaimed documentary Open Bethlehem is a passionate account of efforts to intervene in the city’s tragic decline. May in the Summer mirrors Ave Maria‘s mix of religious tension and comedic drama as a successful Jordanian Christian author returns home to marry her Muslim fiancée and runs headlong into deep-seated cultural taboos.

Khalil knows them well. The son of a Palestinian-Israeli father and British mother, he grew up in Nazareth, near a Carmelite monastery not unlike the one in his film. Oddly enough, he was not allowed to watch movies as a child, developing a love of storytelling from ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.