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.



In 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.



Rotten Tomatoes Audience Reviews

**** Maria P
June 17, 2015
A film that is absolutely brimming with heart, director Amin Dora's Ghadi (2013) is a delight to both the eyes and the spirit. It tells the story of El Mshakkal, a gossipy little Lebanese village, through the detailed flashbacks and narrative of its resident music teacher, Leba. Growing up in this small community, where everyone is in everyone else's business, Leba is exceedingly familiar with the community members' quirks and shortcomings. There's Elias the barber, who cunningly pretends he doesn't charge far too much for his haircuts. Elias the butcher sneaks just a little too much fat into his high-priced lean minced meats. A statue of Saint Elias, El Mshakkal's patron saint, watches from atop a church over the village where half of the residents are aptly named Elias in reverence and so hilariously respond in unison when the name is called out. These charmingly idiosyncratic details contribute to exceptional character foundations for a notably large cast that will eventually build on each individual seamlessly. The casting is exquisite, each actor fitting superbly into their role for an awesome ensemble and begetting flawless character development. Writer and actor Georges Khabbaz as Leba is splendidly unassuming, subtly reactive, and easily relatable. When Leba and his childhood sweetheart wife Lara become the parents of a boy with special needs who wails melodically from a window overlooking El Mshakkal's main street, the whole town is in an uproar. To avoid having to send away his beloved son at the behest of the townspeople, Leba devises a plan that taps into the collective superstition of his deeply Catholic neighbors: to convince them that Ghadi is an angel who wails when they err.

This is Dora's full feature debut and proves that he is definitely a directorial force to keep an eye on. Rich, earthy tones gives way to celestial colors that glow with lots of luminous whites as the film develops its angelic story. The setting is quaint, rustic, and clean giving a warmth and candor to this film that suits its storyline perfectly. Khabbaz's screenplay is character focused, which again is fantastic, yet left the dramatic curve of the film overall just a touch lacking. Viewers feared very little that Leba and his cohorts would be caught in their trickery, as the film was more focused on the successes than the threats, on helping and bridging rather than tearing down or apart. The ultimate point of this story is one of goodness, connectivity, and inclusivity. I would liked to have seen even more development of Ghadi and his relationship to his family to give more weight to the appropriately taken-for-granted value of his existence and his place in the family. It seemed this element was somewhat lost as the scheme to keep him at home progressed and the message of community support took overt precedence. Yet, I would have watched these lovely people and lived as a fly on the wall in this charming world forever, so the slight shortfall of dramatic crescendo easily takes a back seat to the overall visually enthralling, richly developed, thoroughly heartwarming movie as a whole.

Ghadi is a sweet story that is a pleasure to watch and whose effect is both humorous and uplifting. It presents a unique vision with enough of that familiar quality of home to make contact with almost anyone. As a third generation Lebanese-American, it's invigorating for me to see such evident talent and relatability come from a tiny little Middle Eastern country and I want very much to show this film to my friends and family. I'm excitedly looking forward to what other sorts of novel storylines and richly endearing worlds Georges Khabbaz and Amin Dora will create for us in the future. If you're looking for an engaging and heartening journey to a far away place that is sentimentally rooted in home and community, look no farther than the beaming, ethereal world of Ghadi.

An aside: I saw this review on Rotten Tomatoes and wanted to see the film. I checked on Netflix, but they don't carry it. Fortunately Amazon carries it and you can watch it if you have a Prime membership. Other options are renting it or buying it on Amazon. My father went to Lebanon in the summer of 1969 to teach English. He had just graduated from Brown University. He met my mother there and they married in 1970. The Lebanese civil war started in 1975 which pitted a coalition of Christian groups against the joint forces of the PLO, left-wing Druze and Muslim militias. My parents and her extended family fled the country in 1977 eventually ending up in NYC. I grew up listening to stories about Lebanon pre civil war from my grandparents and various relatives. The stories of how they escaped during the civil war could be made into a movie. I invited my parents over to dinner and then to view Ghadi one evening recently. I wanted to get my mother's take on the authenticity of the story. AT dinner all my mother talked about was their new dog and the great site she had found online offering these great dog beds on sale. "These dog beds don't look like dog beds" she explained. "The fabrics are beautiful and they look just like large floor pillows." I took a look at the site after dinner and sure enough, the dog beds were covered in designer drapery or upholstery type fabrics. My mother had chosen a lovely Toile design fabric that would coordinate with her living room decor as the cover for the dog bed she ordered. When it arrived, she said it really did look like a floor pillow, but most likely no one would use it as such since the dog claimed it immediately! My parents enjoyed the film, but my mother's memories of the traumatic events around the civil war and its horrifying effects on family members and friends who did not or could not leave tends to color most of her opinions about anything that has to do with Lebanon and with human nature in general. Nevertheless, I thought Ghadi was a lovely film.

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**** Jaber M
March 4, 2015
Beautiful movie. Touching, funny, authentic, and well directed.

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*** Lilian W
March 3, 2015
It has a Wes Anderson feel to it; a light-hearted tale about kindred spirits. The performances are top notch and the lighting was superb

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**** Niki G
February 9, 2015
Charming and clever.

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