Á mon Beyrouth…
As a subject, Jean Claude Codsi should be applauded for tackling it so passionately. As a story line idea, it was an interesting perspective that would have been part of something much stronger had Arab films been given the support they should have in the first place.
The story follows Brahim who encounters Leila in Beirut. And their meeting pushes him to go back to Jordan, and face his family who believe he is dead after a botched honor crime. The film raises questions as to what is honor, what is family, and where is the line between ethics and morality?
A delight throughout the film was to watch Caroline Hatem, who took the role of Leila. A ballet dancer, the grace and presence with which she carried herself as well as her acting abilities presented a refreshing touch to the story.
Although the film contained wonderful performances from already well established actors such as Mahmoud Said, Bernadette Hodeib, Chadi Haddad and the main actor Majdi Machmouchi, there were blunders that could not be overlooked. Sarah, Leila’s daughter, who though gave a somewhat mediocre performance, was not given justice by having her lines dubbed. If dubbing were a problem in itself, it was done by the voice of a grown British woman rather than a 20 year old girl, and clashed awfully onscreen. Either the actress should have been replaced or the script revised to find another country whose accent she could impersonate, rather than an English one.
Other than that, the script was quite interesting at points, but was let down in many ways. Many parts of the story were not explained, such as the real relationship between Brahim and Leila. And the past behind Leila’s brother, which was not clarified in the film. Perhaps the director intended to leave many questions to be left unanswered, but they were presented too lucidly to be missing any explanations.
There was too little character and storyline development that did not justify many scenes in the film. One example is the wild poetic Farid’s recital of Al Mutannabi’s infamous lines ‘I whose literature has been read by the blind, and whose words have been heard by the deaf, for the night, the horse and the desert know me, and the sword, the spear, the paper and the pen”, in the middle of the desert, in order to represent the same embracement of poetry which his father loved. Perhaps because the choice of verse was too cliché, but it was not established strongly enough in order to be convincing.
The end conversation between Brahim’s son Farid and Sarah, was one of the amusing yet remarkable parts of the film (setting aside the dubbing tragedy of course), which was realistically portrayed by Chadi Haddad. And so was the conversation between Brahim and Asma in the hospital bed. Yet the film ended ambiguously, with no satisfactory round-up of the story. But somehow the film is worth the watch, if only for the message that the director so clearly sends on his opinion concerning “crimes of honor”.
Director: Jean Claude Codsi
Cast: Majdi Machmouchi, Caroline Hatem, Mahmoud Said, Chadi Haddad, Bernadette Hodeib