Saudi comedy impresses at Berlinale

A scene from ‘Barakah meets Barakah’.

A scene from ‘Barakah meets Barakah’.


‘Barakah yoqabil Barakah’ (Barakah Meets Barakah), a quirky Saudi comedy made by young independent filmmakers from Jeddah, which debuted at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, generated a lot of buzz with its first international screening attracting a sold-out crowd.

It is one of the 18 films that have been nominated for the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale.

The film follows an amateur actor in a theater company and an adopted daughter of a rich couple, as they try to navigate their relationship.

Mahmoud Sabbagh, the director of the film, told Al Jazeera that the movie is a “love story and in the background there is the story of the city and of public space.”

The film casts Hisham Fageeh, Fatima AlBanawi and Sami Hifny in lead roles.

The young Saudi team behind the movie financed it themselves and the entire film was shot inside Saudi Arabia.

“When I was in character, people would see me and they wouldn’t see Bibi [the character]. They would see me, Fatima and ask me what I was doing, so I had to deal with that,” Fatima Al-Banawi, the leading female character of the film, told Al Jazeera.

Barakah Meets Barakah, which got a great reaction from the Berlin audience, shows traditional Saudi culture in a positive light.

Tthe film gives an insightful look into a time and place where tradition clashes with the modern world of smartphones and social-media. Featuring breakout performances from Fageeh and Al-Banawi the film marks an inspiring debut by first-time feature writer/director Sabbagh.

The director and the actors said they hope they will inspire other filmmakers to follow in their footsteps.

The Saudi film is not the only Arab contender at the festival.

This year, a love story set against the aftermath of Tunisia’s watershed revolution kicked off the competition at the Berlin film festival Friday as the first Arab-produced contender in two decades.

Hailing from the North African country that triggered the Arab Spring, “Hedi” is the debut feature-length film of Tunisian filmmaker Mohamed Ben Attia.

It is the first Arab production set in the Arab world since 1996 to vie for prizes at Europe’s first major cinema showcase of the year, a festival spokeswoman said.


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