A religious hoax may seem like an odd topic for a film. From crying Madonnas to Jesus found on a slice of toast, there have been some crazy ones over the years. It would seem to be the focus of a cheesy goofball comedy. Yet in Ghadi, director Amin Dora has created a film filled with wit and warmth set against an elaborate deception about a young boy.
Playing at this year’s East End Film festival Ghadi was a contender for Lebanon’s submission to the Academy Awards. The film is a quirky yet touching look at the life of one man and how the arrival of his youngest child changes his life and his community.
The film is directed by Amin Dora, a Lebanese lecturer who previously directed the first Arabic web drama Shankaboot. Here, he makes his feature film debut.
The concept of Ghadi itself is witty and even comical. A man convinces his community, and soon after the world, that his son is in fact an Angel sent from God. The extremes and measures that he must undertake are slap-stick and funny yet this is a film with both humour and heart. His motives for deception are to gain respect and tolerance of his disabled son.
This is a film and narrative that has real character about it. It is a story about outsiders and is filled with eccentric individuals throughout. The film’s opening introduction to almost the entire neighbourhood may be a shaky start but this is a film that finds it feet as Leba grows.
Secondly, yet by no means less important, is the culture towards the birth of woman. In the film the birth of a son means honour, blessing and the contingence of a family’s name. Women’s births and lives are not celebrated or valued evenly to men’s. The neighbourhood pressures Leba into having a son, as a family is not complete without the birth of a male. When Ghadi is born with downs syndrome many suggest that it would have been better if one of his daughters had his condition and not the male. Its difficult subject matter yet the film highlights issues while still presenting a droll and touching story.
The film may feel a little small for some audiences and its multiple character introduction may throw many off. Yet stick with the film and it is a rewarding experience indeed with a great message at its centre.