Mussa is an 11-year-old boy from Sudan living in one of the poorest areas in Tel Aviv, Israel. Even though he decided not to speak after moving to Israel, the refugee gets along well with his classmates at an elite private school. Back in his neighbourhood, he barely interacts with his mother and father, who are constantly working. Anat Goren’s documentary focuses on a child caught between two very different worlds.
Mussa is a brief but affecting look at the immigrant experience. Even though the Mussa refuses to speak, the camera captures his wide emotional range, from the anguish in his eyes at home to broad smiles during a birthday party with his friends. Even without uttering a word at school, he gets respect. Elsewhere in town, Mussa is a wanderer. Goren deliberately frames this divide between home and school, creating a balance between the dangers of refugee life in Israel with the country’s multicultural enthusiasm.
Even with a runtime just over an hour, Mussa feels a bit padded. Since the young boy refuses to speak, the film becomes less compelling – especially as several scenes are of others trying to decode what Mussa wants to say. Meanwhile, the tender moments with Mussa and his classmates resonate more than the dangers of deportation that loom over his home, which needed more explanation.