A decade ago, Yousef Elhaj left his home and family in the West Bank and came to San Francisco. He diligently and solitarily worked his tail off, paving the way or so he hoped for his family to join him. He succeeded, up to a point; he turned the Church Street Market into a thriving neighborhood outpost. In the Palestinian territories, however, his children were growing up without their father and forging their own paths. Corner Store, local filmmaker Katherine Bruens poignant and surprising documentary, follows Elhaj back to Bethlehem for a fraught reunion with his wife and family. The purpose of the trip, ostensibly, is for Elhaj to pack up his clan, say goodbye to Palestine, and return to checkpoint-free San Francisco. You might think this would be the easy part after the lonely years of building a business and the long slog through the bureaucracy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But defining home is complicated, emotional, and messy, especially when other people are involved. Corner Store allows us an intimate and privileged view of Palestine behind the headlines, even as it reminds us of the invisible forces and individual dramas shaping contemporary San Francisco.
Sun., May 22, 2 & 4:15 p.m.; May 22-24, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2011