Searching for Mr Hayes

The Protege

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Robert Patrick

Polish Vietnamese actress Maggie Q embraces her Vietnamese roots in the action film The Protégé deftly directed by Casino Royale director Martin Campbell as she plays an assassin Anna who seeks to avenge the death of her mentor Moody played again by the ubiquitous Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction).

Anna travels from her plush London residence to Da Nang in Vietnam to track down the mysterious Mr Hayes played by Patrick Malahide (The World is Not Enough, Mortal Engines) but first she has to encounter the rather elegant fixer Rembrandt wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman).

Michael Keaton steals the show in The Protégé lighting up the screen with his razor sharp one liners as he banters with Maggie Q in a sizzling scene stealer at a lavish restaurant in Da Nang, which is clearly inspired by any Bond film more specifically The Man with the Golden Gun.

While the script for The Protégé is a bit sketchy and there are large sections of the storyline which are completely glossed over until the final 15 minutes of the film, director Martin Campbell manages to keep the slick adult action film entertaining and exciting with enough exotic locations to cloak this entire film in a 007 vibe but without the budget or the production studio to elevate the film onto a higher level.

Nevertheless, The Protégé is action-packed and enjoyable, cruel and elegant, an engaging storyline which is saved by a brilliant performance by Michael Keaton who saves this thriller from being formulaic despite a body count to rival The John Wick franchise.

There is a brief appearance by Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) as an American biker guy Billy Boy and Samuel L. Jackson just plays another version of himself which audiences have seen in countless similar roles.

The Protégé is a great way to spend two hours, with plenty of action and enough exotic locations from Romania to Vietnam to keep audiences satisfied, however one cannot shake the feeling when watching this film, that it is entirely B-grade but necessary and fun.

The Protégé won’t win any awards but it’s an entertaining assassin action film with shady characters and an unexpected twist that is both riveting and explosive. Michael Keaton is by far the best in the film.

The Protégé gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is worth seeing just to witness the on screen chemistry between the gorgeous Maggie Q and Michael Keaton.

Project Starfish

The Suicide Squad

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Viola Davis, Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, Sylvester Stallone, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Pete Davidson, Flula Borg, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Juan Diego Botto, Taika Waititi, David Dastmalchian

Film Rating: 5.5 out of 10

How did Warner Brothers go from the brilliant Oscar winning Joker in the DC superhero universe to this bizarre concoction of the 2021 reboot of Suicide Squad, unimaginably entitled The Suicide Squad?

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn clearly drew on a lot of inspiration from the films of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro specifically the Oscar winning Pan’s Labyrinth and more recently 2018’s The Shape of Water. Clearly, del Toro’s brilliance as a film maker did not shine off on director James Gunn as he delivers a bloated hot mess of a superhero film The Suicide Squad, featuring too many characters, glorified violence and a plot as bizarre as a Kafka novel with drug induced input from William S. Boroughs author of The Naked Lunch.

2021’s The Suicide Squad is so crazy, so unbelievably off the wall, that even the brilliant moments are overshadowed by some truly ridiculous moments which involved a whole new gang of The Suicide Squad attacking a fictional crackpot Hispanic island in which a crazed glorified dictator is harbouring an alien lifeform in the shape of a giant starfish.

Not even Oscar winner Viola Davis (Fences) could steady this crazy ship of fools, nor could Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya, Bombshell) as she dutifully reprises her role of the psychotic Harley Quinn, alongside Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, newcomer Idris Elba as Bloodsport and John Cena, seen frequently in white underpants as Peacemaker.

There are an abundance of sidekicks including David Dastmalchian as the mother obsessed Polka Dot Man, Sylvester Stallone as the talking shark King Shark, beautiful German actor Flula Borg as the gorgeous Javelin and a briefly seen Jai Courtenay as Captain Boomerang.

The scriptwriters killed their darlings in the opening credits of The Suicide Squad, making way for a convoluted plot involving alien life forms, a vain Hispanic dictator on a remote Caribbean island and a giant starfish which eventually attacks a city the size of Haiti. With such a confluence of confusing characters not one of them stood out as remarkably noticeable, although both Idris Elba and Margot Robbie tried their best to steady this sinking ship of wrecked and psychotic superheroes.

The only bright moment in The Suicide Squad, was the brief cameo appearance of Oscar winning screen writer of Jojo Rabbit Taika Waititi on a rooftop in Lisbon, Portugal, appearing as Ratcatcher. 

Despite the creative production design, The Suicide Squad is deeply disturbing, a film that glorifies death and violence without ever being responsible about its moral implications for the viewers who watch it. Where Joker was intricate and careful about its psychological makeup, The Suicide Squad is unbelievable careless about their characterizations.

The Suicide Squad gets a film rating of 5.5 out of 10, outlandish and cluttered with dazzling images, psychotic superheroes and zombies. Do not watch this film if you are stressed or taking hallucinogenic drugs.

Daughters of the Red Guardian

Black Widow

Director: Cate Shortland

Cast: Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story; Jojo Rabbit), Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (Little Women), Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), BAFTA Nominee Ray Winstone (Nil By Mouth; That Summer!) Oscar winner William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman), David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko

Film Rating: 8 out of 10 – and this film is currently showing in cinemas

Marvel’s phase four of  blockbuster Superhero films was meant to kick off in 2020 with the highly anticipated release of the spinoff film Black Widow, focusing on the origin story of the more elusive Avenger, Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff and her extended espionage family.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic wreaked havoc in 2020 with theatrical release dates, forcing parent company Disney to push back the date to mid-2021 and also allowing Disney sufficient time to develop their online streaming service Disney Plus.

The Disney owned Marvel studio’s big female driven film of 2020 Black Widow, finally did get released in mid-2021 and simultaneously went onto streaming on Disney Plus prompting the main star Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story; Jojo Rabbit) to sue Disney for contractual misconduct as she was hoping to reap some of the benefits of Black Widow, like she presumably did in the biggest Box office success of 2019, the theatrically released Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed billions of dollars worldwide in cinema ticket sales in the pre-pandemic era of packed cinemas.

Despite all the impending litigation, Black Widow is a superb spy film, directed by Australian director Cate Shortland with a fantastically talented cast besides Scarlett Johansson.

Completely upstaging Johansson is 2019’s Oscar nominated breakout star of Little Women, Florence Pugh as the feisty “younger sister” Yelena Belevoa. Florence Pugh steals every scene in Black widow as the wisecracking Yelena along with the equally talented Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) who plays Black Widow and Yelena’s mysterious “mother” Melina.

There is the Red Guardian himself, the “father” of Natasha and Yelena, wonderfully played with a humorous bravado bordering on the crazy by character actor David Harbour (Black Mass, Suicide Squad, Quantum of Solace).

Black Widow’s entire plot of Russian sleeper agents living in mid-Western America is carefully lifted from the hit TV series The Americans and director Cate Shortland pays homage to the 007 film Moonraker as she steers an entirely female lead Jason Bourne style action film.

Taking place in several global locations including Morocco, Norway and Budapest, Black Widow, which for all its narrative inconsistencies is absolutely saved by superb acting on the part of Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh and the really evil Russian villain, Dreykov superbly played by highly talented BAFTA Nominee Ray Winstone (Nil By Mouth; That Summer!) who is a sinister megalomaniac, who is paranoid about losing control of the sleeper international Black Widow program.

Winston mirrors French actor Michael Lonsdale’s performance as Hugo Drax in Moonraker.

For all the drama, both on and off screen, Black Widow is fantastic to watch, with some memorable female lead action sequences and gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

See it now on the Big Screen and support Scarlett Johansson’s bid to recover her take of the Box Office earnings. Highly recommended viewing and way above standard for a Marvel film especially considering the talent involved.

Lily of the Amazon

Jungle Cruise

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcon, Dani Rovira, Quim Gutierrez

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

If viewers are looking for a fun-filled action adventure film then look no further than Jungle Cruise, a film by Disney based upon a ride at Disney World.

Jungle Cruise has the unique mixture of Pirates of the Caribbean tinged with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with undertones of Maurice and The Lost City of Z.

Essentially, Jungle Cruise is about headstrong British explorer Lily Houghton brilliantly played by a blonde haired and gorgeous looking Emily Blunt who teams up with alpha male Frank Wolff played again by Dwayne Johnson, who is lovable in this part but entirely miscast, as they journey down the Amazon river in search of a rare petal, called tears of the moon which promises immortality and a range of exotic cures for Western ailments.

Jack Whitehall plays the prissy younger brother MacGregor Houghton, channelling a younger Hugh Grant, but eventually just emerging as a gay caricature. Nevertheless, Whitehall makes the most of his role as MacGregor who is largely superfluous to the action, but who acts as a foil for his older sister Lily, who is all strong and adventurous.

Unfortunately for Jungle Cruise, there is no clear villain, so the plot gets as entangled as the thickest vines of the Amazon, as two actors Edgar Ramirez (Resistance, Zero Dark Thirty, Domino) and Jesse Plemons (The Irishman, Battleship) both vie for the roles of the main villain.

Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez should have been the quintessential villain, but his role is upstaged by character actor Jesse Plemons playing the young son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Prince Joachim who is after the mysterious petal in a German submarine so that he can obtain the rare flower to help Germany win the First World War.

The plot is outlandish, the action is at times messy but fortunately Emily Blunt is a skilled enough actress to make her role as the dynamic Lily Houghton believable and recognizable.

Suspend your disbelief at the door as Jungle Cruise is that crazy adventure film set in Brazil in 1916 during the First World War about British explorers, conquistadores, jaguars and disgruntled German princes.

Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) and Mexican actress Veronica Falcon are wasted in extremely small roles. Jungle Cruise is all about a satisfying adventure film and in this respect it achieves its goal and delivers.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra steers a solid action packed adventure film which should please the entire family. Jungle Cruise might be as bumpy as a Disney ride, but it is enjoyable and light entertainment disregarding many of its classic film inspirations.

Jungle Cruise gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 but it could have been so much better.

It is surprising that Collet-Serra did not fight for more representation from the vastly talented pool of Latino actors that he had at his disposal namely Edgar Ramirez and Veronica Falcon. Fortunately for all its faults, Emily Blunt shines as Lily of the Amazon.

The Pink Whale

The Rain Falls Where it Will

Director: Majid Barzegar

Cast: Nazanin Ahmadi, Mazdak Mirebedini Alireza Sani Far, Arshia Nikbin, Hamidreza Maleki, Kaveh Hadi-Moghaddam

This film is in Farsi with English Subtitles

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

The 2020 film The Rain Falls Where it Will is Iranian director Majid Barzegar’s contemplative multi-generational character study of a family in crisis.

Majid Barzegar has not achieved the international status of his fellow Iranian director Asghar Farhadi who walked away with the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in 2016 for his superb film The Salesman, however Barzegar does explore the intricate relationships of a family as his nuanced story with the somewhat lackluster title of The Rain Falls Where it Will which follows a middle aged nurse Sara expertly played by Nazanin Ahmadi who is sent away from Tehran up north to look after a wealthy patriarch who has had a stroke.

Sara arrives at a remote and somewhat palatial mansion near the ocean and has to deal with a Grandfather whose three children, a son and two daughters are all pessimistic that their father won’t recover as he lies bedridden with a stoke.

As a nurse, Sara intuitively feels that her patient has a chance of recovery and that the family should not make the critical decision to switch off the life support machines which are keeping the patriarch alive.

The emotional crux of this nuanced Iranian film are the scenes between Sara the hired nurse and the grandson Aria who explains that he thinks his grandfather has a chance of recovery. Upon further discussion, Sara discovers that the cheeky and petulant grandson had given his grandfather weed which possibly made his grandfather see a Pink Whale on the shoreline near their family estate.

The Rain Falls Where it Will is a slight and fascinating film about a family who are contemplating the impending death of their patriarch while the nurses discovers that sometimes questions of life and death are sometimes more intuitive than medical.

This nuanced family drama is a melancholic contemplation of life, death and family from an entirely different perspective. Iranian cinema is rarely seen in the Western World so it is always a treat to watch some brilliant cinema even if it is that brief glimpse into a nation which is exiled from the media and labelled a pariah state.

Cinema transcends geographic boundaries so viewers take a chance on The Rain Falls Where it Will, which gets a film rating of 7 out of 10, which is recommended viewing.

What Gabriel Found

Sons of the Sea

Director: John Gutierrez

Cast: Roberto Kyle, Marlon Swarts, Brendon Daniels, Nicole Fortuin

This Film is available to watch on the DIFF 2021 website – https://www.durbanfilmfest.com/collection/features/

Please note this film has violence and strong language has not been rated yet by the South African Film and Publication board.

Afrikaans with English Subtitles

Winner of Best South African Feature Film at the 2021 Durban International Film Festival

American director John Guiterrez debuts his feature film Sons of the Sea at the 2021 Durban International Film Festival all set in Simonstown and the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. This tightly wrought action thriller focuses on two brothers Mikhail and Gabriel played respectively by newcomer actors Roberto Kyle and Marlon Swarts, whose fraternal bond is stretched beyond breaking point when the younger brother Gabriel finds a dead foreigner in the small boutique hotel he is working at in Simonstown.

The foreigner is a Chinese man who has been stabbed and was trafficking abalone or perlemoen which is common off the rugged Atlantic coastline of the Western Cape.

Gabriel’s more violent and headstrong brother Mikhail convinces him that it is a brilliant idea to steal the abalone so that they can resell it. Soon a corrupt government official Peterson is onto their trail. Peterson is played by another screen newcomer Brendon Daniels. Peterson has his own worries to deal with, with a drunken mother-in-law and a young son to take care of.

Gabriel mistakenly confides his secret find to his girlfriend Tanya played by Nicole Fortuin (Flatland). Gabriel’s job at the boutique hotel and his naïve dream of becoming a photographer is shattered when Peterson starts chasing him and his brother Mikhail as they head out of Kalk Bay area over the mountainous Cape of Good Hope region where tragedy strikes.

Writer and director John Gutierrez has a firm grip on the action genre although some of the scenes are messy and he does not provide sufficient back story about the characters or about the larger issue of abalone poaching which is an ongoing problem in the Western Cape.

Gutierrez fails to contextualize the action within the broader city landscape of Cape Town, which is massive and diverse. The actors do a good job in the three respective leads and Sons of the Sea is a proudly South African film.

Sons of the Sea is a tightly wrought action film which focuses on the brother’s relationship and how Gabriel’s find leads him and his sibling into deeper trouble.

Sons of the Sea gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is worth seeing, it’s light on characterization but heavy on suspense. Recommended Viewing

The Tear Drinkers

iGilbert

Director: Adrian Martinez

Cast: Adrian Martinez, Dascha Polanco, Raul Castillo, Socorro Santiago, Mozhan Marno, Emilio Delgado

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

English and Spanish with English subtitles

Once Upon Time in Venice and Focus actor Adrian Martinez writes, directs and acts in his directorial debut film iGilbert about a diabetic overweight man who lives with his overprotective mother in a Manhattan brownstone and secretly takes pictures of beautiful woman while also spying on his mother’s tenant the voluptuous exotic dancer Jana wonderfully played by Dascha Polanca (Joy, In the Heights).

Psychologically iGilbert is a fascinatingly complex film yet Martinez as writer, director and actor of this film, unfortunately cannot view himself from a distance, so there are unexpected directorial flourishes which detract from the overall narrative. Nevertheless, iGilbert is interesting and disturbing.

It’s a bizarre tale of morally flawed characters that are all cloying at each other’s emotional boundaries, tear drinkers, waiting for the final combustion to occur. There is Jana’s aggressive boyfriend Tony, well played by Raul Castillo who is both possessive and unhinged, an ex-Army War veteran suffering from severe PTSD.

There is Gilbert Gonzalez’s mother Carmen who constantly plies her overweight son with more food despite his obesity, feeding his own insecurities and heightening his secretive voyeuristic tendencies. Carmen is expertly played by Socorro Santiago last seen in director Steve McQueen’s heist film Widows back in 2018.

Then there is detective Rivera who comes to Gilbert’s aid when he reports a rapist to the police. Detective Rivera is played by character TV actress Mozhan Marno who soon realizes that Gilbert has lots of psychological issues which he needs to explore and play out.

There is also Gilbert’s late step father who appears to him in surreal dream sequences: Rodolfo Delgado, a bizarre Charlie Chaplinesque type figure that antagonizes Gilbert adding to his psychological angst and his neurotic voyeuristic tendencies.

Most of the action takes place in and around a Manhattan brownstone, so if audiences are looking for an angst ridden, claustrophobic psychological drama then iGilbert is both entertaining and disturbing.

As a director Adrian Martinez should have handed the project to someone with more experience although he doesn’t do a bad job but his talent is nowhere near the likes of actors turned directors like Ben Affleck, Kenneth Brannagh and Clint Eastwood. Acting, directing and writing your own story is a tough act to follow.

 iGilbert gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is an unsettling piece of urban cinema all set in New York City.

Places Are Like Lovers

Granada Nights

Director: Abid Khan

Cast: Antonio Aakeel, Oscar Casas, Quintessa Swindell, Virgile Bramly, Julius Fleischanderl, Laura Frederico, Alice Sanders

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

This film is in English with minimal subtitles.

This film has not been released commercially yet and is only available to watch in South Africa as part of the Durban International Film Festival DIFF2021 online program

Writer and director Abid Khan takes the viewer through a whimsical and exploratory film about young people travelling in Southern Spain in his delightful debut film Granada Nights which follows the adventures of Ben, a young British Pakistani man who arrives in Granada in the Costa do Sol in search of his girlfriend Helen.

When Helen has moved on and at the urging of a complete stranger Amelia played by Quintessa Swindell who encourages him to live life spontaneously and not be such a tourist but a traveller. Ben decides to remain in Granada to study Spanish at the Centre for Modern Languages. He moves into an apartment and meets Lucas played by Oscar Casas; Oscar played by Julius Fleischanderl, a wealthy Scandinavian and Silvia played by Laura Frederico.

Ben soon forgets Helen and joins his new friends in an endless series of late night parties and fiestas in Granada, a decadent mix of youthful nonchalance encouraged by the drifter barman Big Dave played by Virgile Bramly.

Abid Khan’s fun loving and incredibly light film Granada Nights is a wonderful story of a young man who grows up emotionally from being a nerdy tourist to an adventurous millennial who realizes that he has to experience life and not take it so seriously.

Inspired by Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, Khan’s direction perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the modern traveller a group of transient young people that drink, party and socialize while he demonstrates how Ben grows from being a shy young tourist who transforms into a modern traveller who soaks up all the excitement and experiences that Granada has to offer from the late night parties to the strange Catholic parades that occur on the cobbled streets of this ancient Southern Spanish town with the Alhambra at its centre.

The well-scripted snappy dialogue also captures how millennials converse without taking on the bigger responsibilities of the 40 something generation such as job status, marriage and children. 

There is a poignant scene in Granada nights when Ben has a late night discussion with a Pakistani flower seller in the Arab quarter of the Moorish styled Granada about such contemporary issues as islamophobia and the concept of being an immigrant in Europe.

A critical moment comes when Ben finally does reunite with Helen his lacklustre British girlfriend played by Alice Sanders just as he falls in love with Spanish beauty Ella played by Tabata Cerezo.

As Amelia so aptly states at the film’s beginning, places are like lovers, so Ben decides to take a chance on a more flamboyant side of Granada complete with flamenco dancing, broken hearts and late night shots. Granada Nights will make viewers want to be 20 again and travel the world. It is a carefree film without taking its storyline too seriously.

Granada Nights gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, a lovely film that beautifully embraces all the energies of the transient youth. Highly recommended viewing.

Repression and Desire

Firebird

Director: Peeter Rebane

Cast: Tom Prior, Nicholas Woodeson, Diana Pozharskaya, Oleg Zagorodnii, Jake Henderson

This Film is available on the DIFF Website to be viewed and has not had a cinematic release yet https://www.durbanfilmfest.com/collection/features/

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

This film is in English with no subtitles.

Young Estonian director Peeter Rebane’s heart-warming 2021 film Firebird is a must see at this year’s Durban International Film Festival to be viewed online.

Firebird focuses on the forbidden and touching love story between Sergey wonderfully played by the gorgeous British actor Tom Prior (The Theory of Everything) and Roman played by Ukrainian actor Oleg Zagorodnii set during the cold war in a Soviet Airforce Base just before the impending Soviet invasion of Afghanistan placing the timeline of the film set in the early 1980’s.

Beautifully filmed, Firebird refers to the Stravinsky ballet of the same name and centres on a young private soldier Sergey in the Soviet military who falls in love with his hopelessly dashing lieutenant and aircraft pilot Roman. 

In the midst of this extremely macho world of the Soviet military is this lyrical and beautiful love story that unfolds unexpectedly which director Peeter Rebane treats with sensitivity and grace, without demeaning desire while highlighting the extreme repression that both men were living under whereby any form of suspected homosexual activity was punishable by 5 years in a Soviet labour camp.

Roman is forced to completely hide his sexuality, while Sergey’s true sexuality blossoms as he leaves the military as he pursues a career in the dramatic arts, while studying lines for Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

The fact that both actors are so utterly convincing and easy to watch, makes Firebird excellent viewing, a film very similar to the BAFTA nominated South African 2020 film Moffie directed by Oliver Hermanus. Rebane also draws much inspiration from the Oscar winning Ang Lee film Brokeback Mountain which caused quite a stir upon its first release in 2005.

Repression and desire are intermingled as Roman and Sergey attempt to hide their love for each other not only from the spying military but also from an extremely conservative Soviet society in which men must marry women and reproduce to increase the population of the Soviet Union.

Homosexuality is still banned in Russia but the daring bravado of Estonian director Peeter Rebane’s beautiful and fascinating portrayal of forbidden love both before and during a heteronormative relationship is both informative and exquisite. Roman marries Luisa played by Diana Pozharskaya and even has a child with her, while continuing to keep in touch with the flamboyant thespian Sergey who finds unadulterated acceptance within the Soviet theatre and ballet community.

Rebane’s film is melancholic without being morbid, sensual without being contrived, held together by two decent performances by Prior and Zagorodnii.

Firebird gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Brokeback Mountain and Moffie. A fascinating tale of a true story adapted to film.

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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