Tribal leaders Emir Nesib (Antonia Banderas) and Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) agree to stop warring over a piece of land between their two kingdoms, declaring it off limits to them both. To seal the deal, Sultan Amar gives Nesib his two sons Princes Saleeh (Akin Gazi) and Auda (Tahar Rahim) to raise as his own; assurance that Amar will not attack Nesib. But when oil is discovered in the much disputed land, Nesib breaks the contract hoping to use the wealth to modernize his kingdom. War breaks out and quiet, thoughtful, Prince Auda must choose between allying himself with his overly traditional father, and the worldly man who raised him.
Following through the spirit of brevity, if I had to use one word to describe this film it would be “grand”. Romantic would be another. Filmed on location in Qatar and Morrocco, the viewer will be transported into the exotic world of the Arabian prince; the traditions which bind him and the dreams he hopes to achieve. Director Jean Jacques Annaud goes all out with the direction and cinematography, showing the desert at its best…and harshest. There were such stunning visuals one can almost accuse Annaud of showing off. A certain underwater scene was especially well shot.
Black Gold is a great movie of an epic nature which recalls the spirit and grandeur of Lawrence of Arabia. Tahar Rahim gives a very solid performance as the honorable and conflicted prince. Riz Ahmad provides a great foil to Auda as the main character’s bitter and outspoken half-brother. Antonio Banderas was appropriately flamboyant & sly while Mark Strong’s subtly intense portrayal of Amar gains sympathy for his character in spite of his stubborn nature. But what I found interesting in the film was the depiction of the complexities of Arab culture, some of which still remain. My only qualm with the movie was the musical score. Composed by the renowned James Horner, the score serves its purpose and is quite lovely. However, I found it to be very familiar and not very original; I kept trying to remember where I heard a similar score.
Note: While Black Gold is an English language film, its subject matter along with the fact that it was co-produced by Doha Film institute earns it its “Arab” status.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW
After hearing people rave about this film on twitter I decided to go see what all the fuss was about. I managed to book a very late night show and by the time the movie started I was annoyed with myself for doing so as I had work the following morning. I remember telling my companions “I hope to God the movie is worth the late hour” while my seatmate threatened “if it’s not good, we’re leaving”.
Then the film started and I cannot stress what a fantastic experience it was.
What the heck is “Where Do We Go Now”? Is it a comedy? Is it a drama, is it a musical? I have no idea. It made me laugh. It made me cry. Then it made me laugh again. In fact, the whole audience was guffawing at some of the more outrageous antics of the characters. Conversely, there were also moments of such intensity, reducing the audience to such silence that you would have heard a pin drop.
So what is the film about?
A small village in Lebanon has been torn by the fighting between the Muslim and Christian men within it. After losing so many of their loved ones, the women of the village wage a secret campaign to stop further fighting. Their efforts and those of the village imam and priest are equally touching and hilarious.
The actresses were all so charming. They depicted the camaraderie between these women of different faiths in a highly refreshing and believable manner. What mother doesn’t want her children safe? What wife doesn’t want her husband alive? Female Director Nadine Lebaki (Caramel) multitasks as actress, director, and writer to bring a tale of how far a group of women are willing to go to keep peace for the sake of their loved ones. But unlike many tales, this distance is not achieved through violence, rather, through love and cunning.
I urge every single person reading this review to do him/herself a favor and give Where Do We Go Now a try. If you can only watch/buy one foreign film in 2012, let it be this one. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Winner of the People’s Choice Award at Toronto international Film festival 2011, Where do we Go Now is also Lebanon’s Foreign Language Oscar entry for 2012. I’ll definitely by rooting for it.
I am glad to add the aforementioned films to the growing list of foreign features I had the privilege to view. I believe experiencing different cultures through their arts is a great way to promote understanding. As of yet Arab films have not garnered as much recognition as their European counterparts. But I suspect these aforementioned films will go a long way to alleviate this. If not, Tom Cruise’s climb of Dubai’s Khalifa Tower in his most recent movie, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, will most certainly help to break the proverbial ice.
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