Departure Lebanese Style

The Sticky Side of Baklava

Director: Maryanne Zehil

Cast: Claudia Ferri, Jean-Nicholas Verreault, Raia Haidar, Genevieve Brouillette, Zenab Jaber, Michel Forget

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Family Comedy

French with English Subtitles

Beirut born Canadian film director Maryanne Zehil’s delightful family comedy The Sticky Side of Baklava or La Face du Baklava in French is a must see at this year’s Durban International Film Festival DIFF 2021 which is being screened virtually from Thursday 22nd July until Sunday 1st August 2021.

Zehil writes and directs this delightful family comedy about a couple, Houwayda a Lebanese immigrant woman and her French Canadian husband Pierre who live in Montreal and face the prospect of a year’s internship at a prestige academic institution in Montpellier in France.

Houwayda, wonderfully played by Claudia Ferri dreads the prospects of breaking the news of their imminent departure to her extended expat Lebanese family especially her crazy sister Joelle played by Raia Haider. The couple plan a farewell brunch to their closest family. The husband’s family are all French Canadian so that aspect of the farewell in a plush Montreal home goes perfectly well, despite Pierre’s anxiety about leaving Canada to go and live in France for a year.

Nothing prepares Pierre for Houwayda’s Lebanese brunch on the Saturday before their departure as unbeknownst to her, Houwayda’s sister has invited an entire section of the glamourous and raucous Lebanese family. Because in Lebanon, extended family is everything. Even in the tranquil surroundings of a the Montreal based French Lebanese community that have all emigrated to Canada following the civil war that ripped Lebanon apart for a decade in the 1980’s.

Another Lebanese tradition is that the woman must look after their husbands first and with family gatherings, there has to be sufficient food to feed everyone including all the relatives. Houwayda is also trying to establish her own identity as a philosophy academic and as a woman away from her clinging family while trying to deal with her unpredictable sister Joelle who keeps leaving her husband to come and live with her.

Having grown up myself with a Lebanese paternal grandmother and attending Lebanese gatherings in the expat community in both Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa, I easily related to this film easily especially all the family foibles, the chaos and the general excitement. Not to mention the glamour.

The Sticky Side of Baklava is a light-hearted comedy that takes a comic look at an immigrant community in Montreal as they struggle to blend into a larger Canadian society while still retaining their Lebanese heritage. The scene at the family brunch with three men trying to change a faulty lightbulb is hilarious.

Set in Montreal and Montpellier, catch The Sticky Side of Baklava online at the Durban International Film Festival, a light-hearted comedy which is both American, European and slightly exotic in nature. This film gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing.

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