Ghadi


 

This was the official website for the 2013 Lebanese drama film, Ghadi, directed by Amin Dora. The film was originally selected as the Lebanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. Content is from the site's 2013 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

THE STORY
In a small neighborhood of a traditional Lebanese coastal town, Leba (Georges Khabbaz),a music instructor,  marries his childhood sweetheart Lara.
To the dismay of his family, neighbors, and friends, he has a first baby girl and then a second one. Lara is pregnant for the third time and yes, it’s a BOY!
However, medical tests show that the boy will have special needs. Will Leba and Lara keep the baby? Will little Ghadi become a burden on the family; or its pride and joy? Expect strange phenomena to affect the behavior and beliefs of that little town’s population.

 



n a small neighbourhood of a traditional Lebanese coastal town, the town’s beloved music teacher Leba (Georges Khabbaz) marries Lara, his childhood sweetheart. After having two beautiful daughters, Yara and Sarah, their son, Ghadi is born. While they have the full support of their friends, family and colleagues, Ghadi is born into the world as a special needs child.

CAST
Antoine MoultakaMona TayehCamille SalameRodrigue SleimanChristine ChoueiriLara MatarEmmanuel Khairallah

 

REVIEWS

Busan Film Review: ‘Ghadi’
A Lebanese village gets touched by an angel in debuting helmer Amin Dora's debut feature.
By Justin Chang

The clueless residents of a tiny Lebanese village begin to suspect there’s an angel in their midst in “Ghadi,” a gently barbed, sentimentally played social satire whose familiar tale of overcoming bigotry, pettiness and greed could work in just about any insular small-town context. Conceived in a fanciful comedy-with-a-social-conscience vein that Frank Capra might well have appreciated, this debut feature for director Amin Dora and scribe Georges Khabbaz may be as simple-minded as the characters it scrutinizes and finds wanting. But it demonstrates a deft, winning touch all the same — no mean feat, given a central conceit that skirts the boundaries of good taste and miraculously walks away unscathed. Selected to represent Lebanon in the upcoming foreign-language Oscar race (it was initially chosen last year but opened too late at home to qualify), this modest crowdpleaser should easily charm its way into festivals, particularly Arab showcases looking for levity.

A Lebanese actor-playwright who previously starred in Philippe Aractingi’s war drama “Under the Bombs” (2007), Khabbaz plays a bearded, bespectacled husband and father named Leba Seba, who introduces his hometown of El Mshakkal as the sort of quaint backwater that thrives and festers on gossip, a place where everyone knows everyone’s business and almost every man is named some variant of Elias. As Leba recalls in voiceover-heavy flashbacks, his own childhood was a difficult one; although smarter and more sensitive than most of his neighbors, he was teased mercilessly for his stuttering habit. But that changed with the arrival of a gifted pianist, Mr. Fawzi (Antoine Moultaka), who helped Leba overcome his impediment by teaching him to play and appreciate music, and also to understand the uniquely important role played by those often deemed weak or unfit by society at large.

Years later, Mr. Fawzi’s advice will resonate in highly unexpected ways when Leba and his wife, Lara (Lara Rain), after raising two girls, welcome a baby boy, Ghadi (Emmanuel Khairallah), who has Down syndrome. Like his father before him, Ghadi likes to position himself at his open window, which overlooks the entire town; unlike his father, however, Ghadi is prone to making loud, uncontrollable noises that can be heard by everyone down below, to the point where he’s eventually classified as a major disturbance. Soon the villagers sign a petition to have the boy institutionalized — or, barring that, to have the Seba family kicked out of El Mshakkal altogether. But Leba soon hits upon a way to turn his neighbors’ narrow-mindedness against them, by planting the suggestion that Ghadi’s incessant wailing might, in fact, be the hand of God at work.

With more affection than acid, Dora and Khabbaz have assembled a gaggle of provincial stereotypes — there’s the nosy butcher, the penny-pinching barber, the belligerent old shrew still pining for her long-lost love. Yet rather than turning individual characters into punching bags, the filmmakers target the stifling atmosphere of conformity in a place where it’s impossible to escape anyone’s watchful, judgmental eye, and where life itself has become pointlessly ritualized. One amusing sequence shows how even Leba and Lara’s healthy, committed marriage is affected by external pressures, their dutiful lovemaking sessions a response to their neighbors’ increasingly pushy demands that they have children — and not just children, but boys in particular.

A rigid and oppressive patriarchy is but one of the many targets that come under attack here, as the town’s cruel, unthinking rejection of one of its own becomes a jumping-off point for the exploration of any number of social ills, among them class snobbery, cronyism, religious intolerance and domestic violence. Yet the pleasure and saving grace of “Ghadi” is that, even as it takes its characters to task for their various sins — all of which are neatly pointed out for the viewer, rather than dramatized in any trenchant or meaningful fashion — it never does so at the expense of its impish, mischievous sense of fun. The film’s playful spirit becomes downright infectious once Leba recruits a few sympathetic villagers, particularly his principled young ally Lello (Samir Youssef), to help him carry out his increasingly elaborate, high-tech and at times genuinely altruistic deception.

It’s all so breezily and enjoyably handled that it almost feels churlish to note that Ghadi himself never becomes a particularly individuated character so much as a device meant to produce either alienation or awe at any given moment. Similarly, one could argue for or against the way the filmmakers present Ghadi as some sort of faux higher being, complete with feathery wings and celestial backlighting: Have they fallen into the trap of sentimentalizing the mentally disabled, or are they rather successfully critiquing that very tendency? Either way, Dora and Khabbaz have delivered a sly and absorbing comedy whose particular resonance for Arab viewers (particularly fans of the fledgling Lebanese filmmaking industry) never undercuts its essential appeal to a potentially broad array of audiences.

Holding it all together is Khabbaz’s wonderfully subdued performance as a guy who’s as surprised as anyone to find himself playing the town conscience, a family man whose patient, pleasant nature conceals a razor-sharp mind. Other performances are fine across the board, though given the film’s gender concerns, one wishes that Rain had been given more to do in the deliberately underwritten role of Leba’s wife, whose own taciturn nature is meant to be a principled stance in a town where everyone talks too much. The strong low-budget tech package is distinguished by Karim Ghorayeb’s cinematography, which artfully navigates the balconies and rooftops of the fictional El Mshakkal, while several Mozart compositions add classy counterpoint to the film’s dense tapestry of cacophonous voices.

PRODUCTION: (Lebanon-Qatar) A Lines and Stories presentation of a Talkies production with the support of Doha Film Institute. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Gabriel Chamoun. Executive producers, Chamoun, Samer Dadanian, Fadi Matta, Anthony Sakkal, Celia Mackie, Cedric Kayem.

CREW: Directed by Amin Dora. Screenplay, Georges Khabbaz. Camera (color, Arri Alexa digital), Karim Ghorayeb; editor, Rana Sabbagha; music, Nadim Mishlawi; production designer, Nathalie Harb; costume designer, Rana About; sound (Dolby 5.1), Rana Eid; re-recording mixer, Silvia Masdeu; line producer, Jimmy Dib; assistant director, Patrik Farra; casting, Vivianne Ghaoui, Najat Adem.

WITH: Georges Khabbaz, Antoine Moultaka, Mona Tayeh, Camille Salameh, Christine Choueiri, Joseph Acaf, Antoine El Hajal, Rodrigue Sleiman, Lara Rain, Emmanuel Khairallah, Samir Youssef, Caroline Labaki, Giselle Boueiz. (Arabic dialogue)



'Ghadi': Busan Review
10/6/2014 by Elizabeth Kerr

Artist Amin Dora makes his debut with a universal comedy about bigotry and redemption that was chosen as Lebanon’s official Oscar entry.

A teacher in a provincial Lebanese town is forced to face off with his intolerant neighbors over forcibly removing his Down syndrome son to an institution in Ghadi. As a film, visual artist and filmmaker Amin Dora’s feature debut doesn’t have a mental capacity much greater than its title character, but Dora’s extremely gentle satire about bigotry, redemption, faith and acceptance has the kind of sweet nature that helps it pull off its ridiculous premise. Ghadi is the kind of movie that flirts with disaster at the DNA level but thankfully manages to rise above its potential for discomfort, embarrassment or worse. The New Currents entry at Busan is also a blessedly apolitical comedy from Lebanon’s fledgling film industry that should generate a healthy dose of festival interest. Limited release in overseas urban markets isn’t out of the question for creative distributors, particularly in the run up to awards season.

Leba (screenwriter Georges Khabbaz) is a quiet teacher that overcame a stutter in childhood and the scorn of his nemesis Gerard to marry the beautiful Lara (Lara Rain, so underwritten as to be nearly invisible) and settle into a comfortable life in El Mshakkal. He has two daughters, and finally a son, Ghadi (Emmanuel Khariallah), with Down’s. Ghadi spends most of his days sitting in the window like Leba did growing up, much to the chagrin of nosy, gossipy neighbors that have all manner of insult to describe the boy with. When they present Leba with a petition to either institutionalize his son or leave town altogether, he rustles up the allegiance of the Town Gay Man, Lello (Samir Youssef), the village idiot Karkar and the local black man for a campaign to convince the town Ghadi is an angel. As the ruse spirals out of control, Leba’s motivations become equally magnanimous and defensive. By the time his deception is discovered, it’s too late. The town is cured of its bigotry and it’s profiting from being home to the Angel of El Mshakkal. To let it slip Ghadi has a tooth-rotting happy ending is no spoiler.

Khabbaz’s script has a lot on its plate and juggles a lot of characters (more symbolic archetypes really), but thankfully Dora is an adept storyteller and draws just enough personality from each to make up for lapses in writing, though it doesn’t help some of the elements. Is it likely Gerard (Rodrigue Sleiman) will be carrying a grudge from middle school? Must the town’s women be reduced to bitter jilted lover, whore or barren? The film’s biggest crime is sidelining Ghadi to plot device status, bathed in the ethereal light of purity at all times (we get it, everyone else is wrong). Khabbaz and Dora lovingly roast their recognizable fools rather than skewer them, but it keeps the tone light and fluffy, and that’s clearly the intent over heady sermonizing (compare it to gut punch of Any Day Now). One of the film’s best running jokes is that half the men in town are called Elias, and Khabbaz as actor (Under the Bombs) plays off the idiocy of his townsfolk with aplomb. It may be facile in its messaging but the polished production and adamant view of a better human nature make Ghadi hard to resist in good conscience.

 



 

 

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