Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jason goes to the Arab Film Festival--Opening Night

This is my second year of going to the Arab Film Festival (formerly Cinemayaat), and the opening night movie was "Making Of". A Tunisian film about a suicide bomber. I'm actually somewhat grateful that I didn't write about this movie right away (opening night was last Thursday, 3 days ago), because a little time has given me more perspective on it. My initial reaction was that if it weren't for a particular conceit this movie uses, it would be a well-made but fairly standard troubled-youth-becomes-suicide-bomber movie. Now that I've told that to a few people, I have to stop myself and marvel at how jaded I am that I believes there's a standard formulaic suicide bomber movie. But as to that conceit--occasionally Bahta, the main character, breaks character and becomes lead actor Lofti Abdelli. He launches into arguments with director Nouri Bouzid, and multiple times threatens to quit the movie. What you have to realize is these scenes aren't staged, they're completely real. He didn't even know Nouri Bouzid decided to put them in the movie until he saw it himself. In this way the movie contains a debate about itself, which is pretty cool. It also gives the title a double meaning--the making of a terrorist and the making of the movie. But this is why I'm glad I waited to do this review--at first I was ambivalent as to whether the breaking the 4th wall scenes really enhanced the movie, or just apologized for the movie (or inoculated itself against the same criticisms Lofti makes). But after a few days, I'm convinced they work and enhance the movie.

Oh yeah, and I was struck by how much sexual frustration led to him becoming a suicide bomber. To the point where when he first tries on his dynamite vest he grabs a handful of dynamite and shoves it down his pants, so he has a half-dozen big red explosive cocks sticking out. Perhaps I'm completely missing the point, but that's comedy!

And the star Lofti Abdelli was there for the screening (after having some trouble at the airport--surprise!) Here he was at the Q&A, where he was charming and hilarious:

Then I meant to go to the after party, but the bus was late (had to go from the Clay theater to Medjool in the Mission District, a little far to walk). So after waiting over 30 minutes, I walked down to Geary, met a bunch of drunkards leaving a Jimmy Buffet concert at the Filmore, and took the bus down to the BART station and then home. Sorry I missed the after party, last year they had great food.

And that's the beginning of the Arab film festival this year. I went and saw 3 more shows Saturday. But I don't have time to write about that now, I gotta head off to the San Jose Jewish Film Festival now.

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