‘A Son’ is a powerful family tragedy will long be remembered

‘A Son’ takes a look at a family in turmoil. (Supplied)
Updated 09 September 2019

‘A Son’ is a powerful family tragedy will long be remembered

VENICE: Arab cinema has touched the skies in the past five years or so, and the region’s film directors have learnt how to tell a story in a wonderfully focused way and in the shortest possible time.

Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s debut feature at the Venice Film Festival, “A Son,” at 96 minutes is a crisp look at a family in turmoil.

Set in the summer of 2011, six months after the Jasmine Revolution and the fall of Tunisian president, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, but before the death of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, the movie profiles a family picnic in southern Tunisia.

It is all sunshine and joy with well-educated Fares (Sami Bouajila), his wife Meriem (Najla Ben Abdallah), and their 11-year-old son, Aziz (Youssef Khemiri), out for a weekend with friends in the scenic city of Tataouine.

But during the family trio’s drive back home tragedy strikes when militant rebels attack Fares’ car, and although he manages to turn it around and speed away, a bullet hits the young boy.

Later, in hospital, a doctor tells the couple that Aziz’s liver has been pierced and he will need a transplant. The parents are asked to undergo liver donor tests, but the results reveal information that threatens to destroy the family.

“A Son” has a climax that is unforgettable, and performances that are nothing short of brilliant. If Bouajila conveys his anger, angst and wounded pride in an extraordinarily controlled way, Abdallah portrays the pain of guilt and sorrow with subtle ease and fortitude.

Powerfully penned and directed with finesse, “A Son” should have qualified for the main competition, particularly since it delves into the seedy world of organ trade – and how this pushes people in dire medical emergencies to resort to the most scandalous and unlawful of activities.

With minimal background score – which heightens the effect of silence and the anguish the parents have to go through – and a camera that respects privacy without being curiously intrusive, Barsaoui’s film turns out to be a winner, and a work that will be remembered long after the festival has drawn its curtains.

‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians. (Supplied)
Updated 22 February 2020

‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

LONDON: Don’t let the name fool you, Friday night’s “Arabs Are Not Funny” comedy show was filled with nothing but quick-witted, snarky and overly-relatable quips. 

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians Wary Nichen, Leila Ladhari, Mamoun Elagab and Esther Manito, with Iraqi-Scottish Sezar Alkassab hosting. 

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta (a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound of joy) out of the audience, after encouraging them to “laugh at our culture and enjoy yourself.”

Sudanese-Irishman Elagab, who was recently nominated for BBC New Comedian of the Year, kicked off the night with a comedic look back at his upbringing in the UK, dealing with extremists in class, and the struggle of explaining stand-up comedy to his Sudanese uncle.

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta. (Supplied)

Lebanese-Brit Manito humored the audience with stories of the struggle of taking her British husband to Beirut to meet her relatives, raising two children as an Arab mom, and having her Lebanese father living with her family yelling and cursing at the TV and on the phone. 

Tunisian-Swiss-Austrian Ladhari joked about her boyfriend’s father trying to bond with her by trying to sympathize with Daesh and letting her know that he “too doesn’t like eating pork.”

The highlight of the night was Algerian-Frenchman Nichen, who spoke of his job as a fulltime immigrant and the racism he endures in daily life in Paris. 

The show was organized by Arts Canteen, an organization that curates and produces events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond.