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January 20, 1985|Joan Borsten

MIXED CASTINGS--Film director Nissim Dayan may be adding new tensions to the explosive situation on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Syrian-born veteran of several features and a top-rated Israeli TV miniseries has chosen the city of Ramallah as location for his next movie, "A Very Narrow Bridge." Also as controversial is his choice of subject--a Jewish lawyer who falls in love with a widowed Muslim woman.

The Middle East is sprinkled with cases of Muslim men who marry Christian and Jewish women. As long as a kadi (religious leader) performs the ceremony, the Koran permits such unions. However, Muslim women may only marry Muslims. The rare case of a Muslim woman marrying out of her religion usually has tragic consequences. In "Bridge" the woman's former father-in-law orders her murdered to avenge the dishonor that she's brought on his family. Such "crimes of passion" are common in Arab society and often go unpunished.

His casting also may cause a row: Playing the Jewish lawyer will be Aharon Ipale, an Israeli who's worked on American TV. Playing the woman will be one of Israel's only Arab actresses, Salwa Nakara. Duncel Curtiz, the Turkish actor who starred in Yilmaz Guney's acclaimed "The Herd," will portray the dishonored father-in-law.

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