Film review: An imaginative approach to capturing tension on screen

Haylie Niemann in 'The Wedding Singer’s Daughter.' (Photo supplied)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Film review: An imaginative approach to capturing tension on screen

VENICE: Long before Saudi Arabia reopened its cinemas earlier this year, Haifaa Al-Mansour had made her first movie, “Wadjda,” which premiered at the 2012 Venice film festival.
Al-Mansour had told me then that her entire directorial exercise had been a real struggle: She had to sit inside a van and shout her instructions through a microphone. The movie suffered, but when she premiered “Mary Shelly” in 2017, the progress was for all to see.
Her latest outing is “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” a short film that screened at the 75th edition of the Venice film festival last week. The film is a neat work of art and features a girl who saves her mother from embarrassment during a traditional Saudi wedding.
Here, much like her first film’s young protagonist, a child (played by Haylie Neimann) becomes a hero when she gets up on a table to fix a microphone so her mother (played by Saudi singer Rotana Tarabzouni) can continue singing.
Neimann is a natural and acts with her eyes, something that is very rare these days. It is clear that Al-Mansour’s attention was totally on the little girl, which is not a bad thing, but maybe a bit more camera time for the singer could have balanced out the work a little more evenly.
Although it is understandable that priorities must be chosen in such a short film — this one runs for about eight minutes — a little more creativity in the editing room could have made the feature a more satisfying watch.
The film captures the essence of society, with Al-Mansour publicly stating that “weddings are the actual mirror of the society in Saudi Arabia: Segregated, fragmented, along gender and class.
“I wanted to tell the story of those people and capture that tenderness,” she added.
And that she does with finesse. We see how the daughter ignores the scornful barbs of guests at the wedding and uses her imagination, like an independent movie director, to fix the power problem.
In the process, with one simple act, Al-Mansour once again creates an unlikely heroine.


Screen Scene: What to watch at home this week

What to watch on Netflix this week. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Screen Scene: What to watch at home this week

DUBAI: If you plan on staying in this week, here is what to watch.

Medal of Honor
Starring: Joe Martorano, Jake Abel, Tyler Williams
Where: Netflix
An original docuseries that includes liveaction footage. “Medal of Honor” tells the story of eight recipients (three of whom are still alive) of the US military’s highest award for valor — ranging from veterans of World War II and Korea, through Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Westside
Starring: Pia Toscano, Taz Zavala, James Byous, Leo Gallo
Where: Netflix
Reality show following nine struggling musicians in Los Angeles (“struggling” being relative... one of them placed ninth in “American Idol” and a few others have had songs released...). Think “The Real World” crossed with “... Got Talent.” If you can bear to do that.

Outlaw King
Starring: Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Billy Howie
Where: Netflix
Netflix bills this movie as the “true story of Robert the Bruce,” the Scottish hero who resisted the occupation of Scotland by the English. We don’t know if that means ‘true’ in the sense of ‘historically accurate’ or more in the not-so-true “Braveheart” sense.

Narcos: Mexico
Starring: Diego Luna, Michael Pena, Teresa Ruiz, Alyssa Diaz
Where: Netflix
This spin-off from the wildly popular and acclaimed crime drama series sees the action shift from Colombia to the illegal drug trade in Mexico, charting the rise of the Guadalajara cartel, which DEA agent Kiki Camarena attempts to prevent.

Warrior
Starring: Dar Salim, Danica Curcic, Lars Ranthe
Where: Netflix
Danish-language crime drama that tells the story of war veteran CC as he teams up with his best friend’s widow, police officer Louise, to infiltrate a dangerous biker gang.