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Sabah (Arsinée Khanjian) has just turned 40. Bu she's feeling the pressure of having to take care of her elderly mother, all the while trying to live up to the dogmatic standards of her overly protective brother Majid (Jeff Seymour). Taking a break from tradition, Sabah decides to go for a dip in a nearby public swimming pool. There she (literally) bumps into Stephen (Shawn Doyle) a blue-eyed, barrel-chested Caucasian. Needless to say, the twain has met as Sabah conspires to see Stephen whenever she can behind her family's back. Meanwhile, Sabah's increasingly western niece Souhaire (Fadia Nadda, the director's sister) is trying to get out of an arranged marriage that the family's inflicting on her.
Needless to say, East meets West, as it does in other culture-clash comedies, such as DOUBLE HAPPINESS, BEND IT LIKE BECKMAN, and A TOUCH OF PINK. But it's the romantic sparks that fly between Khanjian and Doyle that make this film so engaging. After years of playing the cold fish in her husband's more esoteric films, Khanjian is so bubbly, passionate, sexy, and winsome in this role that it feels like she's actually enjoying herself on screen for the first time (here she should have won the Genie award for best actress as opposed to ARARAT). Moreso, the romance between her and Doyle is believable as well as passionate, complemented by an appropriately dry performance by Doyle as Sabah's ideal, if slightly naive, Canadian Mr. Right.
It also reminds one how phony MY BIG FAT Greek WEDDING actually was. There, Nia Vardalos's relationship was consummated way too quickly, resulting in a film where the happy ending begins in the middle of the story. But here, the romance is far more believable, because every baby step Sabah makes towards Stephen becomes in itself a step to self-discovery. And yet, it never becomes a case of a poor little Muslim girl being freed by some great white hope, but a woman discovering her own independence, finding romance on her own terms.
Also, whereas BIG FAT Greek WEDDING ended up little more than an episode of THE KING OF KENSINGTON, where anyone ethnic is either too loud, hairy or boisterous, Nadda eschews the stereotypes and is able to get laughs without derision or condescension. The tension in Sabah's family, especially between her and Majid (brilliantly played by Jeff Seymour) says volumes more about the complexities of Muslim culture than anything Hollywood could come up with. And it's a fun panacea to the likes of such media nabobs as Margaret Wente or Daniel Pipes who continually preach to us about the evils of middle-Eastern culture or multiculturalism. Mind you, they wouldn't know what to do with a film like SABAH. It just doesn't exist in their books.
Suffice it to say, Nadda's first feature is my feel good comedy for the year. It makes me proud to be Canadian. It makes me want to stand up for multiculturalism. It makes me feel good to be human.
(EXTRA NOTE: I actually chanced upon SABAH when it had its North American premiere last year at the NSI's Film Exchange Festival in Winnnipeg. I was in a bad mood at the time, but half hour into the film I was elated. Actually, the film, due to a projectionist's error, had to be rescheduled to be played again the following Saturday afternoon. Nadda, in the film's DVD commentary, even admitted this to being a painful moment. But just to let her know: I was so in love with the main character's story, I came for the following screening and even got to meet Khanjian herself (who was present at the screening), who was as every bit as charming as the character she played. So don't feel bad, Rubba. It was worth the extra wait. As a result, I convinced the local Winnipeg Cinematheque to theatrically screen it, paying money two more times just to see it. Will be buying the DVD soon. Promise.)
How a 40 years old women living in the Canada for this long, wearing Hegab and refusing to let a man to seize her hand will jump to bed with him that easy. The fast changing of the family and especially the brother look to the lady's boyfriend is funny. Accepting your sister to spend a night with here boyfriend this is non realistic. Also, the end is like a fast systematic happy end. It could be written much better.
To be honest, I think that this movie presents Canadian people with Arabian culture, not Arabian people living in Canada. That's why I liked this movie. And by the way, these women don't know how to dance. They are not good dancers at all.
Let's hope Hollywood doesn't steal our talented director away.
Sabah, wears a Hijab. She met Stephen at a swimming pool, the only way where she can escape from her brother and his restriction. As she struggles with her self to take off her hijab, and get into her swimming suite, and enjoy some freedom away from her family's eyes. Stephen was like a bless, to have someone, specially a 'foreigner', to actually like her.
Obviously, the clash of civilizations begin.
Nobody can deny that this is a complicated issue, and reality is harsh for a big part of Muslim women. Bad use and interpretation of religion, ignorant cultural traditions has it's impact on Muslim and Arabic women till today.
In order for a filmmaker to approach and explore such a difficult subject cinematically, the film with all it's components should be hired in an 'artistic' way to be able to convince people of it's case. If the artistic quality is low, it will affect the plot, the judgment, and it will turn into bad propaganda. Roba Nadda clearly had a message to deliver, but it failed miserably, this is bad propaganda.
Even for a non-practicing Muslim like me, I find this very. Infusing ridiculous events and scenes to get the viewer's attention is really a cheap way to handle such topic. The prayer and cleavage scene, the over-used oriental dancing scenes, the Muslims don't do this and that (although it is real), and the mother's ridiculous character with her cheap B-movie acting, and not to forget using music to stir up emotions, really (Spoiler coming up) There is a problem, but the film doesn't provide a 'real' solution, they don't approach it from a religious point of view, or even cultural. Through the film's length, all problems are shown, Sabah tells Stephen why she can't do this and that, until the development of the story to a dramatic acceptance, and a cheap ' Happily Ever After' ending. Just to be fair, Arsinée Khanjian acting was good, other than that, this is worthless.
I know some young, independent and intellectual women that made the choice to wear a hi jab while still respecting it's meaning. They aren't forced by evil brothers ( the cliché used in Sabah... ), they chose for expressing some virtues by wearing a strong religious symbol. Other women that I know dropped the hi jab and live a life like western women would. That's just as good as wearing it, but they're not pretending anything either...
What Sabah is doing is pretending virtues for the outside world by wearing that specific religious symbol, but while living a life that's contradicting that. It's fairly safe to say that having pre marital sex and drinking alcohol is against the Quaran. It's like a pacifist joining the army, or a socialist with a Ferrari.
Sabah is a woman that can't choose, not the heroine that the movie wants to make out of her. She'd have my respect if she either chose to drop the hi jab and have the western ''freedom'', or if she chose to keep it on and accept its responsibilities. Now she's just someone that doesn't choose, but keeps pretending something she's not. (--- I say this knowing that she's a fictional character, of course my opinion would be less strong if she was a human of flesh and blood. It's the message that the movie gives with her heroine that doesn't suit me, not that some Muslim women have sex before marriage or drink beer or anything.
I quite enjoyed it. Arsinee Khanjian gives an stand out performance.
Although a film about Canadian-Arabs was long overdue, I feel that the soundtrack could have been much better, especially for the belly dancing!!! I also wondered why actors/actresses were cast for this role whose Arabic, although completely understandable, was not very fluent.
I still would recommend this film, but not with the same enthusiasm that compelled me to go see it.
Sabah is about the idea of love being bigger than culture, religion and tradition. Of two people who come from different backgrounds, somehow surpassing this.
It's so good to see these types of stories, of women living in two cultures, being strong and yet being true and proud of who they are and where they come from. These stories, where we show what we can bring to both cultures, is so important. Beautiful film, in so many ways.
I will definitely recommend this one to friends!
Fabulous, great, entertaining, funny, happy. Sabah is an "A" quality film.
I understand it's a movie and it's supposed to be lighthearted and whatnot but come on, this is extremely unrealistic for a movie that's trying to portray a situation a lot of Muslim women in the Western world are going through. Her transitions make no sense at all.
SPOILER Does no one find it strange that her sister-in-law's affair is a topic that doesn't even get touched after it's been introduced? What was the point of bringing it up in the first place? SPOILER
I don't know how people who have no experience with Islam and the Arab culture feel about this movie but as someone who does, I can say it sucked. A lot. A LOT. It was...just horrid. I don't think a minute went by when I didn't cringe or groan out of disbelief.
Picture a woman, 40 years old--never touched by love that sweeps one off the feet. Then picture her Muslim, in a family governed by tradition, and add the spice: a non-Muslim man lost in love with this 40 year old woman, and you have a wonderful story that crosses boundaries.
It shows a woman who thought herself uncaring of marriage blossom suddenly, learning to make the most of the beauty that was already there. It shows surprise and wonder as a shy woman comes slowly out of her shell, coming fully into herself. It shows a man who sees his heart in that woman--and her courage to stand for that love.
The music is wonderful. The actors all make you feel that you are a part of their story, as if you are a guest who knows them well, and can only hope for the best outcome. It also shows how two cultures can clash, then blend in the magical way that humans can manage, when the heart is there to do so.
Watch this movie. Explore its colors. And prepare to be enchanted.