Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jason goes to the Arab Film Festival--October 22 and 23

Okay, I'm a couple of movies behind in my updates, and I'm leaving for Houston tomorrow to attend a friend's wedding, so I'll try to make this quick.

Monday night I went up to the Roxie to see the Egyptian youth comedy/drama "Leisure Time". A surprise box office hit back in Egypt, it features mostly unknown actors (very unknown here, but unknown even back in Egypt) and a 19 year old writer. It follows a meandering slacker group of Cairo University students, who should be studying and planning careers but instead drink, smoke pot, and chase girls. Sort of a multi-threaded Egyptian slacker story with funny and somewhat pathetic characters who are recognizable in any culture. Even tragedies of different scales can't bring them to get their lives on track, and without giving anything away the closing scene is a perfect metaphor for their go-nowhere lives. Also, it features a really kick-ass pimped-out car.

And then Tuesday night I went up to see "Why, O Sea?", a non-linear semi-amateur (as far as the acting) Moroccan film about a group of fishermen. For them, the sea is a magical force--the source of their livelihood but also a constant threat. It's a meandering, non-linear barely narrative meditation on their relation to the sea. The story is difficult to follow at times, and really the closing monologue--unrelated in all but theme from the rest of the movie--is more powerful than anything else that happens in the movie (and director Hakim Belabbes was there and admitted as much). Perhaps the rest of the movie is necessary to put you in the right frame of mind for the monologue from a widow who lost her husband and two out of three sons to the sea, but really I think that monologue alone would make a great 10 minute short.

And that was my time at the Arab Film Festival for 2007. The festival continues through the weekend, and then for the first time ever plays for a half-week in Los Angeles. But I'm out of town starting tomorrow, and I'll miss the rest of it.
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