Lady of the Palace
To hear it told by those who were there, Nazira Joumblat, the Lady of the Palace was nothing but extraordinary. This documentary presents an interesting cross-section of Lebanese history by telling her story. Her rise to power was a groundbreaking event, the first instance in three centuries of Druze history that a woman assumed any sort of power role. In the absence of any male heir old enough to hold sway, Nazira Joumblat stepped up, securing her family’s reign over the Moukhtara palace. Initially met with resistance from traditionalists who opposed any involvement by women in what were regarded as "the affairs of men," Nazira’s strength and wisdom as a leader earned her respect and acceptance from even the most firmly entrenched fundamentalists. The palace and the persona become inextricably linked throughout the film. The narration personifies the palace throughout, as an entity who speaks to Nazira and acts as both her confidante and instructor. Nazira Joumblat’s story represents the triumph of intellect and leadership over the boundaries of gender.
This film is to be commended for commemorating the outstanding life of a respected and powerful Lebanese woman. There is no denying that the subject is a worthwhile one. The execution, however, leaves much to be desired. Stale images and even staler narration turn this film into something to be endured rather than enjoyed. I found myself wondering how many different ways a camera could possibly capture a veiled woman wandering the halls of her palace. The endless close-ups of windows, palace stairs, melting snow or flowers blowing in the wind contributed to my feeling that the images were gratuitously added to the narration to catch the eye while the history lesson was transmitted. Lady of the Palace has its weaknesses, certainly. Luckily, the subject outshines the execution.