Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Tarik Saleh's "Boy from Heaven" Makes a Splash at Cannes Film Festival 2022

Boy from Heaven (Arabic title ولد من الجنة) is one of very few recent films that have dared to address the increasing tension between religion and state in Egypt today--a fact that was explained by Director Tarik Saleh's comment at Cannes in which he stated that “Egyptians who live in Egypt cannot tell the story. It’s impossible to do so.” Saleh, a Swedish citizen now, took a risk in making this film and, judging from the response that he received at Cannes this year, his efforts seem to have paid off.

Tawfeek Barhom as Adam in Boy from Heaven

The setting is Al-Azhar Mosque/University in Cairo is known as "the Seat of all Muslim Learning"--but the film was actually in shot in Istanbul. This new location allowed Saleh to film truly gorgeous and powerful scenes, settings, characters and colors--beautifully edited and interwoven so as to capture and retain the attention of the audience throughout the film (which runs over 2 hours).

Tarik Saleh's Boy from Heaven: Official clip from Cannes Film Festival 2022

The film stars Tawfeek Barhom (Adam), Fares Fares (Ibrahim) and Mohammad Bakri (General Al Sakra). It has received rave reviews by (mostly) Western critics after it screened at Cannes but has also proven to be quite controversial in certain countries, particularly Egypt where it has reportedly been banned.

Director Tarik Saleh + cast at the Cannes film festival 2022

This is not the first controversial film by Director Tarik Saleh whose movie The Nile Hilton Incident caused quite a debate upon its release in 2017 (see trailer below).

Sunday, June 5, 2022

"The Blue Caftan" Film Review (by Dr. Ramzi Salti)

The Blue Caftan  (2022) is one of the most moving films I have ever seen, not only in terms of Arabic films but as a global cinematographic gem.  

Lubna Azabal (left) and and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Directed by Maryam Touzani  (who wrote and directed the unforgettable Moroccan film Adam two years ago) this film takes on the topic of gay men who, all too often in certain societies, get married to a woman who, sadly, becomes victimized twice over--once by society and once by her troubled husband who cannot reveal the secret of his torment to her.

Lubna Azabal (left) and and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Unlike most such narratives, however, The Blue Caftan spotlights the often dismissed feelings of the wife's feelings in such situations; her experience, for once, transcends her attempt to coexist and/or completely reject her husband's secret love.  Her pain, her view, her empathy--even her flaws--are all brought to the forefront here,  She matters in this film and we find ourselves rooting as much for her as we do for the husband who, despite being gay, does not simply act out on his feelings without any consideration for his wife and her needs.

Left to right: Ayoub Messioui, Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

The married couple is played here by two seasoned Arab actors, Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri, both of whom deliver stunning performances.  There are no outdated representations of a typical love triangle here, just a series of tender and unanticipated moments that restore one's faith in love as well as in the the power of cinema.

Ayoub Messioui (left) Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Film review above by Dr. Ramzi Salti

Halim and Mina run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with the commands of the demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband is moved by the presence of the young man.

  • The Blue Caftan (French title: Le bleu du caftan) is in Arabic with English or French subtitles.
  • The film premiered this year in the 'Un Certain Regard' section at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. The section name means "a certain glance" and it presents 20 films with unusual and non-traditional stories seeking international recognition
  • Film is currently seeking U.S. distribution.
  • Directed by Maryam Touzani. France/Morocco/Belgium/Denmark. 2022. 122 mins.

10th Anniversary of Dr. Ramzi Salti's Arabology Program Features All Episodes on Soundcloud + YouTube (Click here)

All 13 seasons of Dr. Ramzi Salti's  Arabology  podcasts  are now available on Soundcloud, for a total of 101 episodes. Additionally, al...