Arabic-language ‘Dollar’ on Netflix struggles to provide its worth

Amel Bouchoucha and Adel Karam star in ‘Dollar’ on Netflix. (Supplied)
Updated 11 August 2019

Arabic-language ‘Dollar’ on Netflix struggles to provide its worth

  • Unfortunately, “Dollar” often resembles an exaggerated, over-the-top Bollywood work

CHENNAI: A fast-expanding Netflix, eager to penetrate markets across continents, has been creating original content in, among other languages, Arabic. The latest is “Dollar,” a 15-episode web series by Syria's Samer Barqawi (“Al Hayba”). Dubbed and subtitled in several languages, the plotline is amazingly novel, with a bank circulating a currency bill in the streets of Beirut and promising to award a million dollars to whoever ends up with it at the end of a specified period. This, the bank feels, would be a brilliant promotion for its inauguration. 

In episode after episode, Dollar takes us through unbelievable moments with the bank's no-nonsense executive assistant, Zeina (played by Algerian-Lebanese actress Amel Bouchoucha), and an advertising wizard, Tarek (Lebanese comedian Adel Karam), chasing the piece of paper through the city. 

There are hilarious times, and there are tense minutes when the two are caught in a web of sticky situations. When the dollar – whose serial number is with Zeina – is transformed into a rose by a street magician but later discovered in his van, escapes the duo's reach, the disappointment merely firms up their never-say-die attitude. 

Zeina and Tarek's misadventures push them into a den of thugs, and Tarek almost loses his life. At other times, a desperate Zeina, who must somehow get her hands on her share of the prize money, a whopping half a million dollars, even agrees to belly-dance for a hardcore crime syndicate boss. After a trip to a beauty parlor, a movie set and a suicidal professor's house, the couple end up in a parking lot with the bill tantalisingly close. 

Barqawi does manage to weave a mind-boggling variety into his episodes, but the chapters are one too many to sustain uniform excellence. While Bouchoucha is expressive, reliving the pain and pathos of a callous fiance and constant disappointments, she tends to over-perform. And Karam, an otherwise intelligent actor whom we saw in the Lebanese film “The Insult,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2018, appears too stiff as the man behind the bank's publicity plan who quickly turns into a ruthless pursuer of wealth. 

Unfortunately, “Dollar” often resembles an exaggerated, over-the-top Bollywood work, a tendency some recent Arab films made for the big screen have been able to avoid with fantastic results.


Mariah Carey champions Dubai-based designer at Expo 2020 party

Mariah Carey stepped out in a gorgeous gown by Dubai-based designer Furne One. (Mohammed Fawzy/Arab News)
Updated 21 October 2019

Mariah Carey champions Dubai-based designer at Expo 2020 party

DUBAI: Mariah Carey stepped out in a gorgeous gown by Dubai-based designer Furne One, founder of Amato Couture, as crowds gathered at Burj Park on Sunday night to mark the one-year countdown to Expo 2020.

Carey sparkled in a full-length studded dress featuring intricate patterns and Swarovski crystals. She has been spotted in one of Amato Couture’s gowns before, at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year when she wore a black sequinned number.

One is a couturier from the Philippines and his dresses are a hit with some of the biggest female celebrities in the worlds including Shakira, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.

Carey sparkled in a full-length studded dress featuring intricate patterns and Swarovski crystals. (Mohammed Fawzy/Arab News)

“I started sketching dresses at around 10 years old and continued until I went to college,” the designer told Arab News. “As a boy, I would keep everything to myself and spend most of my time alone with my imagination, sketching away dresses. As I grew older, I became a little rebellious. In time, I grew out of that phase and started focusing on my career and become a successful designer."

His big break came when he won a major fashion design competition in 1994 that was judged by a famous Filipino-US designer Josie Natori. “The moment it happened, she took me under her wing and brought me to Paris and New York to work for her as an apprentice because she saw potential in me."

He won first prize at Japan’s Women Wear Awards that same year and, three years later, stood out as a finalist at Manila’s Fashion Design Awards.

Carey, who is 49, sang some of her greatest hits songs including “Emotion” and “We Belong Together” to an enthusiastic audience who braved the heat and humidity of the outdoor venue.

Expo 2020, which runs for six months and begins next October, is to be held at a vast new site in the south of Dubai. Organizers are expecting around 25 million visitors.