Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. France/Lebanon/Egypt/Italy, 2011. Les Films des Tournelles, Pathé, Les Films de Beyrouth, United Artistic Group, Prima TV, France 2 Cinéma, Chaocorp, The Doha Film Institute, Canal+, CinéCinéma, France Télévision, Ginger Beirut Productions. Screenplay by Rodney Al Haddid, Jihad Hojeily, Nadine Labaki, Bassam Nessim, collaboration with Thomas Bidegain. Cinematography by Christophe Offenstein. Produced by Nadine Labaki, Anne-Dominique Toussaint. Music by Khaled Mouzanar. Production Design by Cynthia Zahar. Costume Design by Caroline Labaki. Film Editing by Veronique Lange. Toronto International Film Festival 2011.
In a tiny, idyllic Lebanese village, Christian and Muslim residents live side by side in harmony after years of continued brotherhood and respect. Trouble comes in the form of modernity when the village finally gets television reception and the citizens start to glimpse the outside world, with some of the first images they see being the strife between their two religions in other places. It immediately begins friction brewing in their charming hamlet, with brother rising against brother while the women look for ways to get things back to normal. The solution? Appeal to the lowest common denominator, and bring Russian strippers to town to bring all the men together. Tragedies ensue but so do plenty of laughs, all under the wise and witty direction of Nadine Labaki, also starring as a Christian café owner who catches the eye of a handsome Muslim dry-waller. It’s an uneven affair, possessing musical numbers that feel out of place and an unsure direction of its narrative, and yet it has so much abundantly affecting emotion that it works. The acting is superb and the women, when getting up to their sneaky business, are incredibly funny, while the more serious moments are affecting; it doesn’t always seem like it knows what kind of movie it wants to be, and yet there’s a sense of daring that must be admired.