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Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Baba: A film of fast montages

Baba (Father) directed by Ali Idriss, one of this year's Eid films, presents an underdeveloped story short of humour, despite its attempt

Menna Taher, Saturday 1 Sep 2012
 Baba
File photo: Baba (Father) film poster.
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Spoiler warning for some parts of the movie.

The film relays the journey of couple, Hazem (Ahmed El Sakka) and Farida (Dorra), as they meet at wedding, fall in love, get married, go on their honeymoon and then try to conceive a child. This, however, is hurriedly presented.

Fast montages dominated a large amount of the film's duration, which feels like several films pasted together, seemingly lacking synchronisation.

The storyline slowed down when it should not have and  picked up when it deserved an appropriate amount of time for the action.

Some important and decisive disputes between the couple, one a gynecologist and the other an interior designer, took seconds and with shallow dialogue, while some unnecessary parts that the film could have done without simply lagged endlessly. 

In one very long supposedly "comic" sequence in the film Hazem and other characters are challenged to give a semen sample in an exaggeratedly large bottle for use in an operation that enables them to conceive.

The unbelievability of this part - whether the size of the bottle or the the contrived challenge that hardly felt like a challenge at all - rids that big chunk of the film of its attempted humour.

How gullible do the producers of the film think the audience is? And how is it that no one on the set pointed out the absurdity of this scene? That inner voice of common sense doesn't even let out a chuckle.

Another unbelievable part - which is even more unnecessary in the film - is when Hazem travels to Lebanon for a conference and meets his ex-girlfriend (Nicole Sabba).

After spending a hot night together he wakes up to find a kid, who says is his son. Hazem is shocked but then finds a similar mole atop his eyebrow and, thus, he believes its is his son. Just like that.

He then finds a letter written by his ex telling him that she had to travel for work and explains that it is his son, reminding him of when he was conceived.

Many questions abound by this time, for instance: How normal is it for an Arab woman to be a single, unwed mother? And though in American films sometimes fathers find out about their sons long after they are born, it doesn't make sense in the Arab culture. The man would be contacted to take some responsibility - flat out. Did the filmmakers think that by saying that his ex is Lebanese that it would be more believable? 

Though, in a naïve twist, it turns out that it is not his son, the story becomes even more unbelievable; whether in how gullible his wife is, or him for believing it is his son because of a simple mole.

There are many more examples of when the audience can sense adaptations from several American films, both in style and content.

In one of the honeymoon scenes in Luxor and Aswan, the actors take a moment to sneak a kiss in the darkness, when, predictably, the lights come up for the light and sound show. The actors, in shock, look at the audience and bow.

This scene is blatantly stolen from the British romantic comedy Love Actually. Other parts generally take the form of American films.

Everything in the film falls flat, whether in the humour, dialogue or characters.

Stereotypes abound in the film, as secondary characters comprise of a Salafist couple, a Christian couple and a man from the Gulf with four wives.

These characters are flatly written and are only added as representations. Toward the end of the film both the Christian man and the Salafist are looking at the newborns in the hospital rooms, confused as to which child belongs to whom.

And, of course, as expected, the doctor comes to lecture on how all babies look alike and that human beings created differences.

Main characters do not fare any better.

The audience is used to seeing the action actor Ahmed El-Sakka in his normal roles, which require little acting and much jumping off bridges, many car chases and shoot-outs. The macho attitude that dominates his action films seeps through even in his part in a light romantic comedy.

This attitude is especially nauseating when he comes out of the hospital room raving about his semen sample. While shouting that he managed to fill the large bottle, one feels like it's an extension of the "man-up" Birell advertisement campaign.   

There is nothing commendable or even that manly about producing a semen sample, especially that the film did not portray any of the characters as having any sexual incapacity.

The film's theme perhaps had the potential to relay interesting issues in a comedic light, but it didn't know where it was heading. It could have tackled sexuality, the hardships of pregnancy or even martial problem in a light, funny and sincere manner, however, the film just offered an overblown aimless story.

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