Broken Keys

“Broken Keys”: A pianist uses his talents in the resistance in Syria

FilmfestDC 2021 offers “Broken Keys”, a new war drama directed and written by Jimmy Keyrouz, bringing together music and art in one person to the demands of “manliness” from around him, that he joing in fighting a resistance as a band from ISIS sets up extreme radical Islamic law in the town in war-torn Syria.  The film seems to be set around 2014.

Karim (Terek Yaacoub) has an old upright piano in his home shared with relatives, surrounded by war carnage.  He plans to sell the piano and pay a smuggler for passage to Turkey, from where he can go to Europe and have a career in music. Extremists invade his home and shoot up the piano. Soon he is planning, by hitching rides into other war-torn towns, to find repair parts for the piano so he can sell it and move on. Along the way, he will win the confidence of Maya (Sara Abi Kanaan), and he will take a protective interest in a young boy who is quickly falling into ISIS indoctrination (there is a classroom bookburning scene).

His comrades quiz him about his disloyalty to them, and even use the word “coward”.  They need all their men to help them fight a resistance, they say.  This sets up something that looks like the psychological equivalent of conscription.  He should give up his music and join the tribe.  We see this a lot today.

The plot takes a turn in the final act, after he actually fixes his piano.  He sets a trap for an approaching enemy by playing the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata #21.  The fact that the exposition of the first movement continues (with the E Major second subject) continues when the credit comes on gives us a clue as to whether his plan worked and involved self-sacrifice. The writing (which had to be translated) follows the ideas of story circle and character arc (and philosophical transformation) well.

Much of the film was shot in the ruins of Mosul, Iraq after the occupation and it looks quite battered.

There is a scene where the ISIS detachment pushes a “homosexual” off a building.  They have an ideology of forcing their own idea of religious virtue among all the civilians under their control.  It’s the way authoritarianism deals with past inequity.


Name: Broken Keys

Director, writer: Jimmy Keyrouz

Released: 2020

Format: 1.85:1   Arabic, subtitles

When and how viewed:          FilmfestDC 2021/6/13 virual $9

Length: 110

Rating: NR

Companies:Ezekiel Films, Indie Sales

(Originally Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2021 at 2 PM EDT)