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Dubai film fest campaigns for Arab cinema

Arab Cinema needs to be patronised if it has to fend off challenges from other film industries but most importantly Hollywood.

world cinema Updated: Dec 11, 2015 14:24 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Philip Faucon’s Fatima tackles the fate of an immigrant, Fatima (Soria Zeroua), whose life in France is not easy.
Philip Faucon’s Fatima tackles the fate of an immigrant, Fatima (Soria Zeroua), whose life in France is not easy.(Dubai International Film Festival)

One of the biggest campaigns at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival is called Promote Arab Cinema. Appearing on stage to introduce his debut work, Zinzana (Rattle the Cage), young director Majid Al Ansari said that unless there was enough patronage for Arab movies, no amount of funding would help. This was the key to the success of Arab cinema. Watch more Arab films than those from Hollywood, he signed off.

And Zinzana seemed like a desperate attempt to capture audience attention, for the movie had a feel of Hollywood, its pace, its clipped style and editing. But the script was weak in places and the story line lent itself to questions.

Read: Naseeruddin Shah gets Lifetime Achievement award at Dubai

Set somewhere in Arabia, Zinzana is about a sadistic cop who walks into a small police station to unleash a night of terror on the lone inmate locked up there. Talal (played by Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri) finds himself in a police lockup after he assaults a stranger (Ali Al Jabri, head of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, in a cameo). While the victim gets out on bail, Talal has to stay inside, and his telephone call to his estranged wife does not help either.

Director Majid Al Ansari’s Zinzana is about a sadistic cop who walks into a small police station to unleash a night of terror on the lone inmate locked up there. (Dubai International Film Festival)

It is at this moment that another policeman, Dbaan (Ali Suliman), enters the station to a night long of drama, which unfolds within the confines of a single room. It is only later into the movie that one understands why Dbaan does what he does, although the circumstances leading to this is somewhat fuzzy.

Read: Dubai film fest to kick off with Lenny Abrahamson’s Room

Violent and gory, Zinzana is a reflection of the brute force that policemen use the world over, and the film touted as the first work of noir in the region, is well acted out, but may not quite convince viewers, given the illogicality of the script in places.

Watch the trailer of Zinzana here:

Philip Faucon’s Fatima may not be an Arab film in the strict sense of the term, but it grapples with the Middle Eastern immigrant issue at a time when there is a lot of disquiet over this across Europe. The movie tackles the fate of an immigrant, Fatima (Soria Zeroua), whose life in France is not easy.

Born in Morocco and emotionally close to his roots, Faucon’s work is admirable because he keeps his narrative restrained and does not let it explode into dramatic rage.

Read: Compelling Arab lineup at Dubai film fest

Fatima is inspired by a book, Prayer to the Moon, written by a Moroccan woman, Fatima Elayoubi. It is her 1980s travails in France that we see in the film. The movie’s Fatima devotes her entire life to her two daughters even as she is abandoned by her husband. Fatima cleans houses and looks after the elderly, hoping that her daughters would do better than her in life.

Watch the trailer of Fatima directed by Philip Faucon here:

However, there is a chasm between her and the girls - the generation gap, lack of mastery over the French language and her refusal to give up the veil contributing to the unease. But Faucon makes sure that these mother-daughters disagreements do not explode into major fights, and remain mere skirmishes.

Fatima is a wonderful work about desperation, dejection and disappointment -- about a woman who finds herself alienated not only from her daughters but also the society she has made her home. And the narrative is structured with imagination to give us an insight into Fatima’s mind as it struggles to find peace and harmony.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival.)