Nova Ascher’s AKA Nadia is a tense and compelling drama about what happens when your past catches up with you. A thrilling story, fantastically paced and full of life, AKA Nadia questions the basis of relationships between men and women within different societies and situations but also to what extent one woman would go to save her own life when everything around her is decided for her.
Maya (in a stunning performance from Netta Shpigelman) lives in Israel as a successful choreographer, married to Yoav (Oded Leopold), an official at the Ministry of Justice but Maya wasn’t always Maya from Israel. In another life, 20 years before, she was Nadia, an Arab woman in love with Nimer (Ali Suliman), a Palestine Liberation Organisation activist.
Nadia and Nimer leave for England when he is caught by authorities – this is the first time that Nadia must change her life because of situations out of her control. She settles into a home for girls like her and she only sees Nimer when it seems safe enough. She gets a job in a local cleaning facility – without any friends or family to support her, she must create herself a world. There is an incredible sense of claustrophobia here – both within the narrative but also with what Ascher’s camera is showing the audience. Although she lives freely in England, there is always the chance someone will realise who she really is – she also cannot return home to her family, otherwise she will be arrested as an accessory to the PLO. One day she meets 347 (the number of his cleaning tag) (played by John Hurt) who helps Nadia get a fake passport so that she can return to Israel and start a new life.
20 years later, she has changed again and finds herself as Maya, married to Yoav and working as a choreographer working on a new production which brings together elements from her Arab past. The company are looking for funding to help tour their production and when Nimer reappears as part of the committee, Maya realises there is no way to escape from her past.
At its core, AKA Nadia raises interesting questions of identity and examines Maya’s own crisis with the backdrop of the political and social conflict in the world around her. Ascher is playing out the walls of Maya’s life crumbling around her as a synecdoche for the wider situation. Shpigelman’s performance is remarkable as a woman whose life is constantly in flux – the moments when she isn’t speaking are often some of her strongest, she lets her eyes do all the talking. She moves gracefully across the screen like her dancers, so in control of her craft, capturing the audience from the very first scene and keeping them intrigued until the very end.
AKA Nadia is clever and thrilling, filled with passion and life – massively worth a watch.