Archive for the ‘Red Sea International Film Festival’ Category

Communion (2021)

Dir.: Nejib Belkadhi; Cast: Nejib Belkadhi, Souhir Ben Amara; Tunisia 2021, 95 min.

A man in emotional meltdown during the early months of the pandemic is the focus of this surreal and intensely intimate indie feature from Tunisian writer/director Nejib Belkadhi (Bastardo).

The brilliant black-and-white of DoP Hazem Berrabah, framed in the old-fashioned 4:3, portray a slow-burning but intricate story of a couple’s very different reaction to Covid-19 that lead to the shifting dynamic in their relationship.

In Tunis Kais (Belkadhi) and Sara (Ben Amara) live in a stylish modern flat. Sara is busy organising the local lockdown after restrictions begin to bite: she is permanently on the move whereas Kais is stuck at home suspended from work without pay, and afraid of losing his job. With a history of mental problems he needs to take anti-psychotic drugs – well he should be taking them – but prefers to smoke marihuana, against his psychiatrist’s advice. While slowly adapting to the new modus vivendi he turns his attentions to environmental issues, convincing himself that mankind needs to be punished for its destruction of the planet. Soon Kais starts getting ‘messages’ from his mobile, telling him to get ready to start his ‘mission’ and he intends to embrace the cause.

Meanwhile, the family intrudes on his covert plans: his mother is finding the restrictions tough, and his sister wants Kais to take care of her at his flat. And then Sara reveals she is pregnant, despite their agreement not to have kids so she pretends to have an abortion to keep the peace.

But Kais’ state of mind is gradually deteriorating, with disastrous results that seem to accentuate his submissive personality in emotional scenes that see him drawn to the sea, magnetically obsessed by an octopus-like plant, which hovers in the sky.

Making the best use of a limited budget and to accentuate the sense of intimacy, the feature was filmed in the claustrophobic confines of the director’s own apartment, his pet cat Faouzi, stealing the limelight from the human protagonists. Souhir Ben Amara literally lived round the corner, to complete a realistic environment. Belkadhi shows Kais’ relationship with Sara changing from an adult rapport to something entirely different. Maudlin and highly intriguing, COMMUNION is a perfect example of a success feature made on a financial shoestring.


Vortex (2021)

Dir; Gaspar Noe | 142′

Gaspar Noe’s latest is a tougher, spikier and less affecting version of Michael Haneke’s Oscar-winning Amour (2012) that pictured the final months of a couple in their eighties.

Vortex opens with a man and woman enjoying an evening aperitif on the balcony of their book-filled penthouse. It’s a contented, easy-going domestic vignette with improvised dialogue, but dark clouds soon gather as a split screen then follows their day to day existence, after waking up in the next morning.

Dementia is the focus and Françoise Lebrun will succumb to the illness in a fairly nuanced performance – there are no confrontations or outbursts of aggression – simply a slow downward spiral into mental disintegration. Dario Argento plays the more troubled character, a heavy smoker suffering from heart failure and desperate to complete a book about dreams in cinema – he is fractious and destabilised by his wife’s increasingly erratic behaviour and worried for her safety: “you can’t just go swanning about the place, Paris is full of really dangerous people”. Although his wicked sense of humour comes out in the scenes with their mentally unstable son (Alex Lutz) who gently tries to coax his parents into the idea of a care home – we’ve all been there before, and it doesn’t get better.

The father will protest, the son will desperately try to find another solution – but we all know the writing is on the wall. The tone here is more about resentment and desperate resignation than Amour’s tempered sadness that celebrated the glowing embers a long life full of tenderness and devotion between a couple. Vortex presents a starker more predictable scenario, and very much a Dylan Thomas style ‘rage against the dying of the light’ for Argento’s husband. There are none of the thrills and spills normally associated with the Argentinian maverick’s work. Certainly this is Noe’s most grown-up film to date. An sobering engagement with reality, maybe acknowledging his own mortality. MT


Belfast (2021) BAFTA Outstanding British Film 2022

Dir: Kenneth Branagh | Cast: Judy Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Drama, UK

Kenneth Branagh’s happy little film glosses over the turbulence of The Troubles to give us a candy-coated memoire of his Protestant childhood in backstreet Belfast of the Sixties.

Most of us remember the endless reports on the telly and radio recounting the horrors of Catholic and Protestant confrontations in the ‘bogside’ area of the capital. And there’s no attempt to brush these under the carpet, but staged in lustrous monochrome set pieces the hostilities seem almost thrilling from his character Buddy’s cheeky 9 year-old perspective (Jude Hill is perfect for the part). Dressed in grey flannel shorts, a shirt and tie he watches it all from the bedroom window of his family’s two-up two down terrace where he grows up with his parents (Dornan and Balfe) and grandparents (Hinds and Dench) and older brother Will (McAskie). It’s a picture of domestic bliss.

The upbeat freewheeling storyline drifts from home to pub to schoolroom with a focus on his father’s constant trips to England to chase lucrative work as a carpenter, before the family eventually moved there. This leaves Buddy time alone to fathom out the religious conflict in his own mind, and dream and scheme about girls with his grandfather Pa, a jovial Ciaran Hinds, Judy Dench bringing them both down to earth with a cutting comment or two. There are trips on the bus and family outings to the ‘pictures’ to see Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC and A Christmas Carol. A redolent score by Van Morrison seems apt for this perfectly pitched family drama telling it just how it was back then. MT





Ennio (2021)

Dir/Wri: Giuseppe Tornatore | Doc 157′

Ennio Morricone was one of cinema’s best loved and most prolific composers. Giuseppe Tornatore captures his complex romantic spirit in this warmly nostalgic tribute that also celebrates their own working relationship that started with Cinema Paradiso (1988) and continued for many years. In his lifetime Morricone scored over 500 movies, one year alone completing 18 films. 

The biopic straddles film and musicology enriched by a treasure trove of excerpts and the stars that brought them to life praising Morricone’s charisma and single mindedness and describing their own experiences with a man whose modesty contrasted with his prodigious talent to amuse. The final half hour does feel repetitive with its endless clips of concert performances which add nothing to the party, and almost fly in the face of the composer’s lowkey sense of style.

‘The Maestro’ is pictured in his palatial home relaxing in a armchair as he talks expansively about a career that started with his training to be a doctor before his father, a professional trumpeter, persuaded him to become a musician.

Times were hard and the family struggled during the Second World war years when Morricone played for a pittance writing dance tunes before a classical path at the Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory would see him training under the respected teacher and composer Goffredo Petrassi who would strongly influence for the rest of his career.

Working with an avant-garde collective inspired by John Cage allowed Morricone to develop his creative inventiveness using a variety of sound effects using tin cans to the famous whistles and even typewriters to produce his unique sounds during the Sixties in scores often inspired by Bach toccatas, but the bread and butter came from TV work where he was often uncredited.

Morricone often felt he was letting his classical training down preferring to remain in the background with his iconic scores for Westerns, but they allowed him to expand his contacts, and it was here that he would forge a long lasting working relationship with Sergio Leone, one of his old schoolfriends, he would go on to score all Leone’s films after A Fistful of Dollars. 

A Fistful of Dollars (1963/4) provided a springboard for other Western projects where he insisted on having control of the score, even when Leone proposed additions from another movie. He even replaced his mentor Petrassi on John Huston’s The Bible (1966), a moment he still considers regretful, and where he is uncredited. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) followed and Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence (1968). He turned down an offer from Roland Joffe saying he couldn’t score The Mission (1986) without ruining the aesthetic appeal of the images, but then went on to enhance the epic. It was nominated for that year’s Oscar but missed out to Herbie Hancock’s Round Midnight, which was not an original score, and therefore not really eligible for the category. 

This is a film that somehow benefits from its plethora of talking head stars: Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone,  Dario Argento all make valuable contributions along with Bernardo Bertolucci and Bruce Springsteen. Even the elusive Terrence Malick gives his two pennyworth on working with the maestro in Days of Heaven, who received his first Academy Award nomination for the score. The only regret during his prodigious output is that he was unable to score A Clockwork Orange for Kubrick after a misunderstanding with Sergio Leone deep-sixed the collaboration, Leone claiming Morricone was too busy with his score for A Fistful of Dynamite, which was apparently untrue).

Tornatore really gets to the heart of a genuine and deeply sensual man who clearly lived for his music at a profound level and found happiness in his marriage to Maria who provided an invaluable sounding board throughout his career and got him his first job at RAI.

Ennio provides a rich vein of lesser known Italian films from the Sixties – Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s Love Circle, Alberto Lattuada’s Fraulein Doctor and Liliana Calvani’s I Cannibali (1970) as well as classics such as Elio Petri’s A Quiet Place in the Country, Bertolucci’s Partner; Pasolini’s Hawks and Sparrows, and Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers and Leone’s 1984 epic Once Upon a Time in America (still considered his best) whetting our appetite to re-discover these and fully appreciate how his compositions add another dimensions to cinema, Sidelined at the Academy Awards for many years he finally struck gold with Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, at 90. MT


Take Me to The Cinema (2021) Rea Sea Film Festival 2021

Dir: Albaqer Jafeer | Doc, Iraq 74′

 “You have dreams, but it’s important to fulfil them too”

The cinema has long provided an escape route, a journey into a dreamworld when reality is too much to bear, or freedom impossible. But does cinema have a future in the modern world ponders Iraqi filmmaker Albaqer Jafeer.

Four years in the making his documentary Take Me to The Cinema was inspired by Nassif Falak’s and serves both as a personal odyssey into the world of film and a potted history of a troubled era told through his protagonist, an Iraqi soldier who avoided active service in the 1980s Iran/Iraq disappearing into the world of film where his obsession with the film Papillon began.

The soldier reflects on a time only 50 years ago when travel was impossible, so the only way of escape was to flee into the darkness of a cinema. Papillon remained seared to his memory conjuring up images of conflict and confinement far worse than those experienced by Steve McQueen. Iraq went into lockdown when war was declared in 1981, so the soldier decided to forge a passport as a means of escape – he also forged passports for his friends.

Captured in magical images of the ancient riverside city and its splendid surrounds, the lyrical journey begins with the two traipsing round Baghdad in the purple gloaming during the evening prayer time. Intercut with reminiscences of the conflict, the 65-year-old former soldier and Jafeer browse through old combat gear, which now has a valuable market value of its own. A walk through a disused cinema is revealing – and it was where here the soldier last saw Papillon on the big screen. Italian movie posters of matinee idols still adorn the crumbling walls, old reels of film are strewn about the sandy aisles in a sight for sore eyes. But there’s also treasure amongst the wreckage. “Cinema is like an Iraqi person – he opines – it went through the sanctions and survived”. 

The final act comes full circle as the soldier acts out his ‘dream’ in the reality of the nearby countryside, striding symbolically through the wasteland, tossing away his combats triumphantly and embracing the future and all it holds declaring “I am here you bastards” a quote from McQueen’s Papillon in the film. Take me to the Cinema is another slim but enchanting film from the Arab world playing at this year’s Red Sea Film Festival. MT


The Sea Ahead (2021) Red Sea Film Festival

Dir/Ely Dagher | 119’ Drama Lebanon

The Sea Ahead is a rather languid feature debut for Lebanese writer/director Ely Dagher opts for moody enigma at the expense of a tangible plot in an enigmatic narrative that somehow suits its theme of directionless youth. 

Jana (Manal Issa) is back in a wintery Beirut to find life has changed in the Mediterranean capital – her father has even started doing the washing up in support of female emancipation. But Jana seems sullen at the prospect of being home again and somehow resentful of her middle-class parents. Trying to maintain a low profile while she  finds her feet again is impossible with her mother alerting the whole neighbourhood of her return from studying in Paris.

Beirut positively glows with the promise of new life, the city’s regeneration well on the way, with burgeoning construction stretching along the coastline – despite the ravages of the pandemic- but Jana is not convinced. Her years in Paris have broadened her horizons but not just culturally, leaving her disenchanted, coasting through her days not keen to work despite a potential job offer from family friend Hassan.

Another friend is getting married – word has it she’s already pregnant – and Jana’s father tuts away in dismay at the aimlessness of today’s younger generation:  “we fought and suffered” he claims, presumably referring to the 1982 war with Israel.

Seeing her old boyfriend Adam (Roger Azar) is the only thing that puts a smile on Jana’s face and they spend lazy days in the lowly mechanic’s apartment eating falafel, staring at their phones and dancing to Middle Eastern disco music until things turn sour.

A fadoesque portrait that explores a well to do generation with too much freedom and too many choices that leaves the uninspiring central character aimlessly drifting and dissatisfied. The feature works along similar lines to The Worst Person in the World although it lacks the energy, dramatic heft and fully fleshed out central character of the Cannes-winning Norwegian title showing that aimlessness can also have a winning appeal of its own. MT

RED SEA FILM FESTIVAL | Jeddah Old Town 6-15 December 2021

Europa (2021) Red Sea Film Festival 2022

Dir/Wri: Haider Rashid | Adam Ali, Svetlana Yancheva, Mohomed Zouaoui, Michael Segal | Italy, Thriller 75′

This gritty migration movie clearly takes its cue from the 1964 black and white Czechoslovak classic Diamonds of the Night that followed two Jewish teenagers escaping from a train taking them to Dachau concentration camp.

Haider Rashid’s debut may slimmer of script and less engaging but the sombre subject remains the same. A breathless Zac handheld camera follows a young Iraqi Muslim who reaches the coast of Bulgaria on a boat, trafficked from North Africa. Hoping for a better life, rather than escaping certain death like the teens in Jan Nemec’s Czech New Wave debut that ends in tragedy, Europa is more enigmatic.

DoP Jacopo Caramella keeps his camera right up close to Kamal (Ali) as he rushes on through the bosky undergrowth. Occasionally the focus broadens to the near distance where his pursuers are hot on his trail. Europa is about the pain, fear and the gruelling tiredness suffered by this modern refugee who may be young and fit but is also injured and exhausted by his dangerous odyssey, and ill-equipped to endure the perilous journey that lies ahead when night falls.

Writing with Sonia Giannetto, Haider keeps the tension taut in this fact- based drama driven forward by Kamal’s terrorised POV. We feel his sheer exhaustion, his fear-fuelled energy sapping away. Eventually he reaches a safe haven in the woods but not for long. Adam Ali grew up in the safety of Manchester but his performance as Kamal is fraught with palpable terror in this tightly-wound unhurried tragedy that ponders the unkindness of strangers. MT


Intregalde (2021) Red Sea Film Festival

Dir: Radu Muntean | Romania, 104′

“No good dead goes unpunished” is the idea behind this latest film from Romania’s Radu Muntean (One Floor Below). Întregalde ponders how modern Romania has gone backwards and forwards at the same time through a richly thematic psychodrama playing in this year’s Red Sea International Film Festival.

Written by Răzvan Rădulescu, Alex Baciu and Radu Muntean it centres on three friends Maria, Ilinca and Dan (played by Maria Popistașu, Ilona Brezoianu and Alex Bogdan) who embark on a humanitarian mission to deliver food parcels to a remote part of Transylvania.

But on their way home the upbeat charity jaunt soon turns into a stress-fuelled nightmare when they pick up a mysterious old man in the forest. Kente (played by non-pro actor Luca Sabin) takes them wildly off track, before leaving them on a muddy track in the autumnal gloom of the Apuseni mountains.

Early scenes strike a familiar note for most of us used to charity efforts, food banks and child poverty, now at 21st century reality. In the back of their land-rover the two stranded women talk about relationships and fertility problems while they wait for Dan (Bogdan) to get help to repair their stricken vehicle. Arguments follow as they all fall out over their decision to leave the main road in the bitterly cold falling snow. By the morning the woods are transformed into a winter wonderland where time seems to have shifted back hundreds of years in the village of Întregalde.

Muntean gives us a sardonic vision of a country where two worlds collide: one is the complex modern existence, the other is caught in a fairytale past of painted wooden houses and rural traditions. Both exist in the 21st century: Kente still believes in his imaginative stories and folklore and lives sustainably off the land and his livestock. The three helpers have been catapulted into an economic reality where food and money are now scarce for many ordinary people, caught in the poverty trap of modern Romania. MT



Kayan (2021) Red Sea Film Festival 2021

Dir: Hakeem Jomah | Horror, Saudi Arabia 75’

A young Saudi couple’s past regrets and neuroses play out in this startlingly effective genre piece, a sophomore feature for Hakeem Jomah, who has made a name for himself as the man behind Madayen, Saudi Arabia’s first psychological horror ghost story.

A blood moon, poltergeists and a Dracula like receptionist are some of the sinister experiences the two encounter when they decide to check into a hotel after a boozy night with friends.

Kayan unfolds in modern day Jeddah where Salman and Thuraya are having a tough time relationship wise, and a house move and new baby doesn’t help. The tone darkens on their way home, deciding to spend the night in a rather mysterious old hotel with more that a few ghastly secrets behind its exotic portals.

The weird hotel manager gives them a chilly reception and not surprisingly nobody gets any sleep haunted by hallucinations and strange things that go bump in the night. Thuraya is menaced by a strange little boy – a reminder of an early abortion. She then appears hovering above the bed in a ghoulish transformation – or it is a figment of his Salman’s imagination?. Meanwhile in his dreams he floats between feverish fantasy and reality menaced by a baleful ex-girlfriend and a security guard with kinetic powers. 

Kayan makes effective use of red tints and an eerie electronic soundscape to ramp up the tension in a tightly scripted and stunningly realised psychological horror outing that certainly puts the Saudi Arabian filmmaker firmly on the map horror-wise. MT


River of Blood (2021) Red Sea International Film Festival 2021

Dir: Nitin Lukose | India, Drama 101′

In his beautifully realised revenge drama Indian director Nitin Lokose dives into the troubled waters of a divided Catholic community in the southern island of Kerala to show how an age-old vendetta can perpetuate ill-feeling despite religious cohesion. Each year at Christmas time the two factions at the heart of the story agree to bury their differences but Christmas is rarely a good time for families, and sparks from the fire soon ignite another round of violence.   

A body is brought out on to the sandy river banks deep in the lush Keralan countryside – was it a murder or an accident? The death seems to be connected to a decades long rivalry between two Catholic families unable to live by the values they espouse. Anna (Kosher) and Joey (George) had hoped to get married, but their nuptials are put on ice due to the inter-family feud, Romeo and Juliet style. 

Years later Joey’s uncle Kochappan (Kizhakkan) returns home from jail, having served 15 years for the murder, much to the consternation of his nasty little blind father, a devout Catholic and pillar of the local community who had urged Kochappan to take revenge, even providing the weapon of choice and encouraging Joey and the rest of male to perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Kochappan’s crime hasn’t been forgotten, and as history repeats itself the police are brought in to investigate uncle’s sudden disappearance- no prizes for guessing what’s happened as the killing spirals out of control.

A great premise but rather a simplistic script fails to flesh out characters or backstory instead plunging us immediately into a series of violent episodes between the menfolk – the women remaining cyphers on a sidelines, leaving us caring little for those involved. A curious comedy undertone feels tonally out of kilter with the otherwise baleful mood of constant conflict. Lukose gets into his stride as his narrative unfolds in the second act, full of Srikanth Kabothu’s wonderful images and a tense dramatic undertow that makes River of Blood entertaining arthouse thriller, despite the repetitive violence and rather predicable finale. MT


The Stranger (2021) Red Sea Film Festival 2021

Dir: Amir Fakher Eldin | Drama 112′

“How can we fear death when we have not lived”

Amir Fakher Eldin’s feature debut a melancholy parable, a tribute to all those oppressed or forced to live elsewhere. As Palestine’s Oscar 2022 hopeful the film also reflects the disenchantment of the older generation with the next one, as it in turn considers an uncertain future in the internecine conflict. Laced with metaphors and sage quotes from ‘the prophets’, this quietly engrossing slow-burner establishes character and place before moving on to a tense but satisfying conclusion.

On an opening vignette a father (Mohammed Bakri) is writing his will, disinheriting his only son Adnan (Ashraf Barhom, an borderline alcoholic failed doctor who has always disappointed him, leaving all his worldly possessions to the temple, apart from the treasured family orchard which produces a decent crop of apples and cherries on the slopes of the occupied Golan Heights.  

Amid the sound of distant shelling we meet Adnan, tending the orchards in the glowing shades of late Autumn, a dusting of snow glistens on the distance mountains, a chilly reminder of another winter of discontent. Rather than turn in a profit the orchard is the his refuge to get away from the everyday realities of a cow with an infection, a wife who wants to emigrate, and a daughter who desperately needs his guidance. Meanwhile his brother in law demands he shape up or ship out. At least he still has his faithful dog Kosba.

On his way home Adnan is stopped by Israeli soldiers who smell drink on his breath, he winds them up a provocative way, claiming to be heading to Damascus and challenging them over the Israeli occupation. Not a clever idea in the circumstances, but Adnan is not a particularly sensible man whose poor decisions have left him and his family financially broken.

But Adnan is a decent soul, and his next decision is a good one. Driving with his friends Akram and Hani, later that night, they pick up a wounded man who is gravely ill, and needs a doctor. Hani insists on knowing the man’s identity before they get a doctor. But Adnan objects to Hani’s lack of care: whoever the man is he deserves saving. Using his medical knowledge he treats the man’s leg wound himself.

When he wakes up the man claims to be a Syrian war photographer searching the Golan Heights for his grandparent’s house before they were exiled to Syria in the 1967 war. A Syrian exile himself, Hani insists on seeking the advice from the elders, still believing the photographer to be an imposter. Should the traditional values of neighbourliness transcend political differences? Eldin’s absorbing drama raises all sorts of questions, but in a poetically appealing, unoffensive way. MT


Hell’s Gate (2021) Red Sea Film Festival 2021

Dir: Amin Dora | Cast: Cynthia Samuel, Adam Bakri, Fadi Abi Samra, Hassan Farhat | TV Series | 8 Episodes

When it comes to the niche genre of Arab Sci-fi this new TV series is one to watch out for with its surprisingly captivating characters and inventive production design, make-up and costumes.

Blending horror and sci-fi with an edgy love story, it takes place in a post apocalyptic Beirut in the year 2052, where an authoritarian regime has taken hold of the population. A struggle for power breaks out between a group of shrewd investors who have assumed control of the Lebanon and a bunch of revolutionary young men and women eager to overthrow them. The story centres on Adam (Adam Bakri) whose path crosses with a mysterious young woman Alia (Samuel)  who claims to “tick all the boxes”, and she certainly seems to with her intelligence, mesmerising beauty and emotional strength.

Emmy Award winning director Amin Dora has us hooked from the opening scenes with his cast of really impressive Middle Eastern actors made more intriguing for Western audiences by their exotic looks and strong characterisations – the women are certainly no wallflowers here, often calling the shots.

Hell’s Gate is on Shahid VIP, Shahid’s subscription-based service, now available worldwide 

Hit the Road (2021)

Dir: Panar Panahi | Iran, Drama 98′

A promising debut for Panar Panahi (son of Jafar) proving that Iranian cinema need not have a political subtext but can just be relaxed and reflective, as Hit the Road certainly is, in spades. Clearly well-trained under his father, Panahi hits the spot with a bittersweet but un-involving story steeped in melancholy, a road movie that successfully blends light-hearted and more sensitive moments encompassing the nuances of human behaviour and the complexities of life.

Very much a critics’ film with its arthouse style and artful framing (it premiered at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight) the pace may be too slow-burning for mainstream audiences with a lack of real dramatic tension, and unexplained plotlines – in the old Iranian style the film meanders along at its own pace bolstered by enigma, but never really reaching a conclusion, other than the predictable, sad event that brings it to a melancholy close.

A car is travelling through the Iranian countryside and 6-year-old Rayan (Sarlak) is playing along to the classical music on the radio tapping imaginary notes on a hand-painted keyboard on his father’s plaster cast – clearly his much older father (Hassan Madjooni from The Pig) has broken his leg. Rayan’s mother (Pantea Panahiha) sits in the front and his older brother (Amin Similar) is in the driving seat, a sullen young man who doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the family unit, and is permanently on the verge of tears although we never really understand why.

Panahi shifts from dark comedy to Greek tragedy, the mother frequently breaking into tearful or cheerful song as they travel along. Rayan has a tiny tantrum when his mother decides to bury his mobile phone with her bare hands by the roadside, a bizarre action that is left open for our own conclusions.

The father is a moody, avuncular man who dotes on his precocious little boy, clearly an afterthought in the couple’s long marriage. Rayan plays to the audience, sometimes disingenuously, you get the impression he is being heavily guided off camera.

As they head into the mountains, the tone grows more sombre and we discover their adorable pet dog Jessy is a stray with not long to live. It then emerges in an elegantly framed father/son tete a tete, set by a backdrop of astounding natural beauty, that all is not well with the elder brother who reflects on his future, or lack of it.

The mother clearly absorbs all the sadness of her family as well as the ebullience of little Rayan, it’s a wonderful performance from Panahiha and balances Madjooni’s laidback nonchalance. There are shades of Kiarostami in the widescreen set pieces, and inventive use of CGI in a mesmerising scene shot from above, but some may find the final act too long and drawn out.

Hit the Road is an expressive four-hander with a strong aesthetic, plenty of new ideas and solid performances. But somehow you leave feeling disappointed – and the ending doesn’t help. MT




Sisters (2020) Red Sea Film Festival 2021

Dir: Yamina Benguigui | France, Drama 99′

Isabelle Adjani is the star of this turbulent sophomore feature from French filmmaker Benguigui that sees three sisters ride an emotional rollercoaster en route to discovering what became of their brother after their father took him back to their homeland.

Part road movie, richly complex character study and melodrama, Benguigui touches on socially relevant themes of immigration and female empowerment in her largely autobiographical film that is powered forward by genuine enthusiasm – and it succeeds, despite structural flaws, in relating a genuine story of sisterhood set against a turbulent past.

The film open as the youngest sister Norah (Maiwenn) finds herself back home with her mother Leila (a fierce Fattouma Ousliha Bouamari) causing ructions in the domestic status quo. Past resentments resurface, Norah blaming her mother’s divorce from their abusive Algerian father as the root of her problems. But Leila claims she bringing her daughters to freedom they now enjoy in France. And although only the middle sister, Djamila (Rachida Brakni), seems settled with a high profile career in the Law her feathers are ruffled when the eldest sister Zorah (Isabelle Adjani) decides to write a play about the family story, the others reacting with varying degrees of horror, not wanting to relive the trauma through a play. Sudden news of their father’s stroke back in Algeria then forces the girls to pull together and visit him in the hope of a family reunion, and to find out what happened to Redah.

Much soul-searching follows as they all make the fraught homeward journey that leads to  tears and violent recriminations, and some really powerful acting from the trio. Benguigui’s fractured narrative swings flips backwards and forwards to fill us in on the past, but the doubling up in casting is often confusing with Zorah’s daughter Farah, (played by Hafsia Herzi) also playing her mother in the play’s flashbacks. And the father’s sudden stroke feels rather too convenient as an opportunity to return to Algeria although the scenes around the capital are some of the film’s most enjoyable moments. And it’s interesting to see some nuanced subtlety for Adjani after her more fraught roles in Possession and Camille Claudel.



Cyrano de Bergerac (2021) Red Sea International Film Festival 2021

Dir: Joe Wright | Writer; Eric Schmidt | Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Ben Mendelsohn, Kelvin Harrison | UK Musical drama, 124′

Joe Wright gives Cyrano De Bergerac a musical makeover with this soft-centred lyrical approach to the time-honoured French classic, transposing the action to early 18th century Italy and dressing the love story up in macaroon pastels and tender gazes as delicate as the Capodimonte porcelain of the region that clearly inspired Sarah Greenwood’s production designs.

Peter Dinklage plays the sweet-natured romantic soldier unlucky in love due to his unfeasibly large nose and lack of stature, but whose way with words woes Haley Bennett’s wistful but unwitting maiden Roxanne (Bennett) through poetic billets doux penned on behalf of the real object of her affections, Christian (Harrison) a recruit in the service of her caustic suitor Duke De Guiche (an ebullient Ben Mendelsohn).

The everlasting appeal of the story lies in the cherished belief that inner beauty and noble intentions can override physical imperfections in our quest for love. And Wright certainly moves us with this woozy concoction and its touching performances particularly from Dinklage in the leading role as a captivating Cyrano crooning original tunes from Aaron & Bryce Dessner.

There have been several adaptations of the 19th century novel, the most famous, from 1990, stars Gerard Depardieu as the disillusioned dreamer, and this one is based on Erica Schmidt’s 2018 stage show, which also starred Dinklage in the title role. A little bit lightweight but intoxicating nevertheless. MT





Red Sea International Film Festival 2021 | International Spectacular strand

Every festival has to attract and entertain the public and The Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF) is no different. Taking place from 6-15 December, it will be a chance for audiences in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to catch up on some of the year’s most powerful stories from iconic, award-winning international filmmaking voices. All eight films in the INTERNATIONAL SPECTACULAR section will be Arab premieres, showcasing the very best of international cinema.

Much will be made of the ground-breaking contribution of women to cinema, including tributes and masterclasses from some of the most inspiring female names in cinema. The Festival will honour the first female Saudi filmmaker, Haifaa Al Mansour, who is not only one of the most significant names in the Saudi film industry, but has lead the way in championing female empowerment across the region. Academy Award and BAFTA nominated French actress Catherine Deneuve will also be honoured by the Festival.

Academy-Award, BAFTA, and multiple award-winning writer, director, and actor Giuseppe Tornatore’s latest, Ennio, is a documentary focusing on the late Ennio Morricone, who was among the most influential and prolific musicians of the twentieth century, the winner of two Academy Awards and composer of over 500 unforgettable movie soundtracks. Tornatore interviews the Maestro himself, who had a long-established association with the director, having composed the music for 13 Tornatore feature films, including for Tornatore’s Academy-Award winning Cinema Paradiso.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour is a fantasy thriller that had its world premiere this year at Venice, telling the story of a girl with unusual powers, who escapes from a mental asylum and tries to make it on her own in New Orleans. Starring Jeon Jong-seo, Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson and Ed Skrein.

French-Algerian director Yamina Benguigui’s latest film Sisters (French: Soeurs), starring Isabelle Adjani, tells the story of three French-Algerian sisters: Zorah, Nohra and Djamila. For thirty years, they have been living in the hope of finding their brother, Rheda, abducted by their father, and hidden in newly decolonized Algeria. When they learn that their father is dying, the three sisters decide to go to Algeria to seize their last opportunity to have him reveal where their brother is.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter also world premiered at Venice 2021 where the director won Best Screeplay for her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name. It stars Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, and Jessie Buckley in the film adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name. The psychological drama tells the story of a woman on holiday, who meets another woman and her young family, prompting surprising memories of her own early motherhood. Expect something completely different.


Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Kenneth Branagh, Belfast is an autobiographical poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s in Northern Ireland. The highly anticipated cinematic tribute to Branagh’s native city is beautifully shot in black-and-white and stars Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, and Ciarán Hinds. The film scooped the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Spanish comedy The Good Boss (Spanish: El Buen Patrón) is written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa. Standing on the industrial outskirts of a small provincial town, for decades Básculas Blanco, played by Javier Bardem, has been making industrial scales for major retail outlets, to weigh vehicles and livestock. The good boss likes to tell his workers that Lady Justice holds Blanco’s scales in her hand. The film premiered at this year’s San Sebastián International Film Festival and has been chosen as the Spanish entry for Best International Feature Film at the upcoming 94th Academy Awards.

You Resemble Me (French: Tu Me Ressembles/main image) is the directorial debut of Egyptian-American filmmaker and award-winning journalist, Dina Amer. The film, co-written by Amer and Omar Mullick, tells a story of cultural and intergenerational trauma, takin-g on one of the darkest issues of our time and deconstructing it in an intimate story about family, love, sisterhood, and belonging. After two sisters on the outskirts of Paris are torn apart, the eldest, Hasna, struggles to find her identity, leading to a choice that shocks the world. The film had its world premiere in the Venice Days section of this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

Based on a true story, Bridgerton star Phoebe Dynevor plays Clarice Cliff, a remarkable figure who revolutionized the British pottery industry in the 1920s. Sky Original Film The Colour Room directed by Claire McCarthy is a fabulous period drama showing how Cliff battled against the odds in a world run by men to establish herself as a pioneering ceramic artist, impressing an eccentric factory owner (Matthew Goode) with her ingenuity. Director Claire McCarthy makes a brilliant mark by highlighting the battles women had to win to be heard in the workplace in a feel-good tale of talent, determination, and perseverance.



Red Sea Film Festival (2021) Feature Competition 2021

The inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival is set to bring the best in Arab and World Cinema to the UNESCO world heritage site of Jeddah Old Town.

The Festival will open with Joe Wright’s musical dramady CYRANO (2021) based on Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play and starring Peter Dinklage in the lead alongside Ben Medelsohn and Haley Bennett (as Roxanne). The world premiere of Egyptian director Amir Salama’s BARA EL MANHAG closes the festival in a light-hearted mode after ten days showcasing a compelling slate of new and diverse films, alongside a retrospective programme celebrating the masters of cinema as well as introducing audiences to exciting new voices from the region and beyond. The Festival will provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, masterclasses, and workshops to support emerging talent.

COMMUNION is the latest film from Tunisian actor, director and writer Nejib Belkadhi. In life under lockdown, Sarra works from home, helping people distressed by Covid-19. The film questions whether they can survive this confinement without sinking into depression and whether their marriage can return to normal. The film is one of 14 to receive a grant from the Red Sea Fund, and will have its world premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

PAKA – RIVER OF BLOOD (above) s the feature debut from Indian writer and director Nithin Lukose. The Malayalam-language drama introduces us to two families in North Kerala that that for generations have been locked in a blood feud, separated by the river running between them that has become a makeshift graveyard for the feud’s many casualties. When Anna and Johnny, scions of these opposing clans, fall in love, it signals hope to ending the violenceuntil another body is pulled from the river.

HUDA’S SALON (above) is the latest film from Academy Award nominated Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad. The film, written and directed by Abu-Assad, follows Reem, a young mother married to a jealous man, who goes to Huda’s salon in Bethlehem for a haircut and an attentive ear. The feminist thriller portrays two women fighting for their freedom, filled with contradictions and battles between betrayal and loyalty.

In its world premiere at RSIFF, SOULA (above) is the directorial debut feature from Salah Issaad, co-written with Soula Bahri. Bahri plays herself in this road movie about a young single mother rejected by her family. Trying to make it through the night with her baby, she sets out along the roads of Algeria, only to find herself caught up, through a series of unfortunate encounters, in a spiral of violence.

EUROPA (above)is the latest feature from writer and director Haider Rashid. Intent on leaving Iraq for Europe, Kamal faces a long, difficult and dangerous journey on foot. Crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, where local mercenaries are hunting down migrants, he must negotiate a seemingly endless forest that is also host to a lawless underworld. The film premiered during this year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.

courtesy of Tribeca

BRIGHTON 4TH is the third fiction feature from Georgian New Wave director Levan Koguashvili. Kakhi, a former Olympic wrestler, travels to New York to clean up a mess made by his gambling addict son, Soso, who was trying to marry Lena for a green card. Khaki discovers that life in America is not that different from Georgia. The film presents a touching exploration of masculinity in a stunning central performance by real-life former Olympic wrestling champion Levan Tediashvili. Selected as the Georgian entry for the upcoming 94thAcademy Awards, it had its world premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it won Best International Narrative Feature Film.

YUNI above)  the latest feature from award-winning Indonesian writer and director Kamila Andini. At 16, Indonesian schoolgirl Yuni will qualify for a highly-prized college scholarship if she maintains good grades and avoids marriage. She has already rejected two suitors, but her community’s belief is beginning to close in on her: if a woman rejects three proposals, they say, she will never marry at all. The film had its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the Platform Prize, and has been selected as the Indonesian entry for the upcoming 94th Academy Awards.

SALOUM (above) is the latest feature from Congolese writer and director Jean Luc Herbulot. Set against the backdrop of the 2003 Guinea-Bissau military-backed coup d’etat, an elite trio of mercenaries extract a drug dealer and his wares from the chaos to take him to Dakar, Senegal. The escape goes awry, leaving them stranded in the Sine-Saloum Delta, an area rife with myth and mystery, where the mercenaries face an unexpected foe from local legend.

RUPTURE directed by Saudi filmmaker and writer Hamzah Jamjoom is a suspenseful drama that follows a Saudi pregnant woman who must decipher reality from dreams, drug-induced delusions, and perceptions of death before a killer gets to her and her family. Her fractured life and memory are not the only thing that stands in her way.

REHANA MARYAM NOOR is the second feature from Bangladeshi writer and director Abdullah Mohammad Saad. A tense tale of abuse, accusation, and resistance, the film depicts the opposition and negligence at a university when Rehana, an assistant professor, reports a professor abusing students. The film was selected in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Bangladeshi film to be featured in this category. It has also been selected as the Bangladeshi entry for Best International Feature Film at the upcoming 94th Academy Awards.

HIT THE ROAD (above) has been one the highlights of the summer festival circuit in Europe and the feature debut from Iranian writer and director Panah Panahi. This road movie is a rollercoaster ride of emotions – from belly-aching laughter to a sea of tears – as a family of four take a borrowed car on a road trip to the sounds of 1970s Iranian pop. The film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Caméra d’Or for best first feature. At the BFI: London Film Festival, it won the top prize for Best Film.

Written and directed by Al Hadi Ulad-Mohand, LIFE SUITS ME WELL is set in the mid-1990s, in a small town in the north of Morocco, where Fouad is the only employee of the local post office. When he is diagnosed with a neurological disease, his whole family enters a new chapter of their lives during which they rediscover what life means to them. The film is one of 14 to receive a grant from the Red Sea Fund, and will have its world premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

NEIGHBOURS (above) is the latest film from Kurdish writer and director Mano Khalil. Arabs, Kurds and Jews live amicably together in a small Syrian village on the Turkish border. The arrival of a fanatical new teacher at the primary school divides the community, where 6-year-old Sero finds his own small world turned upside down. Drawing on his own experience, Khalilpays tribute to the good neighbours of his childhood.

FARHA (above) is the feature writing and directorial debut from Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam. In 1948 Palestine, 14-year-old Farha has almost convinced her father to let her go to school in the city. Her village comes under a bombing attack and her father leaves, locking her for safety in the family’s cellar and promising to return. Through a small hole in the wall, Farha watches the village she was excited to leave turned to rubble, bearing witness to the collapse of her country and the forced displacement of its people.

Written and directed by Samir Nasr, SHARAF is adapted from the novel of the same name by acclaimed Egyptian writer, Sonallah Ibrahim. Sharaf may dream of being fabulously rich, but when he ends up in prison after killing a man in defence of his honour, he has to wake up fast. Prison mirrors the outside world, with all its systemic inequality, injustice and corruptionalthough, even here, Sharaf believes he can make his fortune. The film will have its world premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

THE ALLEYS (above) is the feature directorial debut from Jordanian filmmaker Bassel Ghandour, who also wrote the film. East Amman’s labyrinthine neighbourhood Jabal Al Natheef runs on a toxic brew of gossip and violence. Just one thing is certain: that the shadowy corners of the alleyways are crawling with secrets. Ghandour is most well-known for writing and co-producing the 2016 BAFTA winning and Academy Awardnominated Theeb.

The inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will run in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from December 6-15, 2021.

New Saudi Cinema | Red Sea Film Festival 6-15 December 2021

The Red Sea Film Festival will celebrate its inaugural edition from 6 -15 December 2021 in the world heritage site of Jeddah Old Town,
 flying the flag for a flourishing filmmaking scene in Saudi Arabia. 

The New Saudi/New Cinema selection showcases the latest features from Saudi directors. 

Junoon is the feature directorial debut of directors Maan B. and Yaser B. Khalid, played by Maan B., is a wannabe vlogger, who travels with his wife and best friend from Saudi Arabia all the way to Southern California, hoping to catch some great footage of paranormal happenings. When his wish comes true, the question becomes whether the three of them will have the presence of mind to turn the cameras off and flee.

Route 10 is the latest feature from director Omar Naim, co-written with Khalid Fahad. Jamal and Maryam are set to travel from Riyadh to attend their father’s wedding in Abu Dhabi, until the flight is cancelled, and they plan to make the journey by car instead. They underestimate the many hazards of the desert road, including an angry stranger whose terrifying pursuit has the brother and sister driving for their lives. Naim’s 2004 film The Final Cut, starring Robin Williams, was nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2004 Berlinale.

Quareer – Red Sea Film Festival 2021

The omnibus film Quareer is a collection of five Saudi women’s stories. The five female filmmakers, Ragheed Al Nahdi, Norah Almowald, Ruba Khafagy, Fatma Alhazmi, and Noor Alameer explore themes of abandonment, neglect, control, abuse and shame in a conservative society. In a captivating portrayal of a harsh reality, these women don’t hesitate to carve out their own spaces.

Fay’s Palette is the feature directorial debut from writer and director Anas Ba-Tahaf and produced by the leading actor Hisham Fageeh. Fay lives in a cloistered apartment, which she can’t leave because her only obstacle to the outside world is her brother. She expresses all of her obsessions through painting, but when she orders a new paint palette, matters get complicated.

Becoming – Red Sea Film Festival 2021

Directors Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Alfahhad and Fatima Al-Banawi tell five women’s stories in Becoming which was produced by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation. Stories of a female infertility healer, an 11-year-old girl raised in a conservative household, a disappearing bride, a forty-year-old hairdresser contemplating an abortion, and a divorced mother are beautifully illustrated in this omnibus film from the five female filmmakers.

Kayan directed by Hakeem Jomaah takes us to an almost deserted hotel where a couple is stranded with their baby, here they are confronted with their obsessions. This only strengthens the circle in which they find themselves.

Cinema Al-Hara directed by Faizah Ambah follows the lives of three teenagers whose lives are changed forever when cinema come to the old neighborhoods of Jeddah. Shot during the Festivals community outreach program Saudi filmmakers and talents hosted workshops that contributed to the performance of the teenagers in addition to film screenings in the heart of the city.

The inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will run in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from December 6-15, 2021

Red Sea Film Festival 2021 | Treasures

The Treasures selection celebrates seminal and innovative classics from the Arab world and beyond, many of which will be seen for the first time in Saudi Arabia on the big screen at The Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF), which will host the first edition from 6-15 December.

The Treasures section celebrates award-winning and ground-breaking classics from both the Arab and international world with a renewed vigour and in an exciting new context.

The 1994 classic Strawberry War, directed by legendary Egyptian director Khairy Beshara, tells the story of Thabet, played by the renowned Sami El Adl. Thabet is a wealthy businessman who owns multiple factories, and lives alone in his huge mansion. After losing his only son, Thabet doesn’t know the meaning of happiness anymore. He meets the peddler Hamama, played by Mahmoud Hemeida, and Farawla, played by iconic actress Yousra, and they decide to go to the mansion, where they embark on a journey to discover the true meaning of happiness. A special film for its unique story, fantastical setting, and its sense of humour, the film has been restored with the support of the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation.

Raafat El-Mihi’s 1995 classic A Little Love Much Violence is considered one of the most daring in the history of Egyptian cinema. Personally selected by the iconic Laila Eloui, one of most versatile actresses of her generation, who delivers a powerhouse performance in the film. Based on the novel by Fathi Ghanem, the narrative is a two-stranded affair, one of which is light-hearted, the other more realist with its focus on well-being. A son decides evade his father’s control and divorce his wife from their arranged marriage. He then starts a relationship with another girl, in pursuit of influence and power. The film breaks several cinematic and dramatic traditions through various elements, making it a truly iconic piece of work.

The 1979 Bengali-language mystery The Elephant God (Bengali: Joi Baba Felunath) is one of the most popular films from Indian director Satyajit Ray, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The story introduces a private investigator, Felu, who arrives in the holy city of Benares for a holiday. On a visit to a strange holy man, Felu is told that a rare, valuable gold statuette of Ganesh, the Elephant God, has been stolen. Felu is engaged to unravel the mystery of the missing Ganesh and, thus, the adventures begin.

Directed by notable director Henry Barakat, the 1959 Egyptian drama The Nightingale’s Prayer is based on the novel by modernist writer Taha Hussein. The film tells the story of two young women and their mother who are banished from their idyllic, isolated village by an uncle who is shamed by his brother’s adulterous behaviour. The film competed at the 10th Berlin International Film Festival, and was selected as the Egyptian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 32nd Academy Awards. The film was personally selected by filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour who cites Henry Barakat as an inspiration

Wadjda is the 2012 feature directorial debut of Saudi Arabian writer and director Haifaa Al-Mansour. It is through the escapades of Wadjda, a young teenager of twelve, that the audience discovers daily life in the suburbs of Riyadh. Through the fate of several female characters, the film approaches the different aspects of the female condition, such as forced marriage or polygamy. The multi award winning film was selected as the first ever Saudi Arabian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards.

1970 rare classic The Choice is among the most essential films of legendary Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine. The masterpiece was restored by the Red Sea Foundation with the support of Egypt’s Ministry of Culture in 2020. Written and directed by Chahine, the film tells the story of Sayed, a famous writer and social climber, who, when he learns of his twin brother’s death, delays his life plans in order to find his brother’s killer. The film is an immersion into a human soul that appears calm on the surface, but has constant turmoil lurking beneath.

French writer and director Thierry Frémaux’s 2016 documentary Lumière! takes audiences back to witness the birth of cinema. Frémaux, director of the Institut Lumière and of the Cannes Film Festival, sheds light on all the dimensions that cinema has occupied and continues to occupy in everyone’s daily lives, by inviting the audience to witness the birth of Cinema and the genius of the Lumière brothers.

The Red Sea International Film Festival will also pay tribute to one of the most popular French actors, Jean-Paul Belmondo. Unforgettable in A bout de souffle, The man from Rio or Itinéraire d’un enfant gâté, Jean-Paul Belmondo has played under the direction of the greatest European cineastes. Beginning with Jean-Luc Godard and the New Wave, it did not take long for him to take the turn of comedy and action film, with more than 80 films to his name. The Festival pays homage to this exceptional actor by presenting a montage of his main roles, prepared by the Lumière Institute, and by programming Pierrot le Fou in a restored version.

Pierrot le Fou, the 1965 classic from French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, is based on the 1962 novel Obsession by Lionel White. Selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 38th Academy Awards, the film tells of the adventure of Ferdinand, played by Belmondo, cynically married to a rich woman, who decides one evening to flee his dreary existence with Marianne, a girl once loved and found by chance. This joyous and desperate run through sunny France gives the film the appearance of a road movie, tinged with musical comedy, film noir and flamboyant melodrama.

The inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will run in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from December 6-15, 2021.

Brighton 4th (2021) Red Sea: Competition Best Film: BRIGHTON 4th

Dir.: Levan Koguashvili; Cast: Levan Tediashvili, Giorgi Tabidze, Nadezhada Mikalkova, Kakhi Kausadze, Tolepbergen Baisakalov, Yuriy Zur, Irakli Kavsadze, Irma Gachechiladze; Bulgaria/Georgia/Monaco/Russia/USA 2021, 90 min.

Georgian director Levan Koguashvili (Street Days) captures the essence of Boris Frumin’s idiosyncratic script – a fraught concoction of shattered dreams and fatherly love in exile, laced with dark humour and set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, once a cultural melting pot for Jewish emigrants and artists and now home to Russian-speaking Georgian emigres not afraid to resort to gangster tactics to get what they want.

Soso (Tabidze) set off from Tbilisi with the best of intentions, his family lending him $15,000 to study medicine and pay Lena (Mikalkova) for a fake marriage and a Green Card. Once in New York the hot-tempered Soso develops a gambling habit, the money slipping through his fingers.

So it’s up to his father Kakhi (Tediashvli) to put things right. Arriving tired and stressed the former Olympic wrestler finds his son in a shabby boarding house, and soon devises a way of earning the money to get him back on his feet.

Amongst the motley crew of local Georgians – played by mostly non-pros – is fellow ex-wrestler Amir who has partly contributed to the problem, lending Soso the money, and now wants it back, threatening the young man and his father with a death squad. On a misty beach, with the now defunct fairground in the background, a bitter feud develops where they will eventually fight it out.

Shot by Oscar-nominated DP Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska) whose images of the decaying district fit in well with the dry absurdist narrative: the film shows how these hapless immigrants were aiming to capture the elusive American Dream. Instead, desperation sets in like the permanent fog that haunts the beach front, twinkling fairy lights the only beacon of hope they mistook for the promised land. Brilliantly acted, Brighton 4th is a homage to early Jarmush features: the greener grass of Brooklyn looking distinctly grey on the horizon. AS

Best International Narrative Feature Film: Brighton 4th, directed by Levan Koguashvili,

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film: Levan Tediashvili

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film: Boris Frumin,

TRIBECA 2021 | 14 JUNE 2021

Red Sea: Competition Best Film: BRIGHTON 4TH by Levan Koguashvili Georgia, Russia, Bulgaria, USA, Monaco.

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