Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:50 pm 
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Man abandoned by mom

"Ok, Enough, Goodbye" is a literal translation of Tayyib, khalus, yalla/طيب، خلص، يلا which is a common enough way of ending a conversation in Arabic. It doesn't mean anything special, though in English it may sound as if the speaker is fed up. On the other hand, the protagonist of this flavorful little film often is fed up, and wholly pushed outside his comfort zone. This is a coming of age movie about a forty-year-old.

Alas, poor Tripoli (Tarablis in Arabic), once a pretty town with scent of oranges wafting through the streets, now a homely, uninteresting skyline of jumbled apartment buildings shown in the opening shots of this film (with Rania Attieh's ironic travelogue voiceover), the second largest city in Lebanon, 500,000 people, mostly Sunni Muslims. Okay, Enough, Goodbye is a completely homemade film, though the short films of the couple who've made it, Tripoli-born Rania Attiah and American Daniel Garcia, have made waves at film festivals. They shot this debut feature film on HD themselves, using Attieh's familiy and friends as cast members. The result is an astonishingly real and intimate portrait of this guy who lives with his mother and the various people in his life, and of the whole homely, ordinary world he and perhaps many of the 500,000 live in.

Nobody has a name but a little neighbor's boy called Walid (Walid Al-Ayoubi). The main character played by Daniel Arzrouni is just Man, and his Mother is played by Attieh's grandmother, Nadime Attieh. Man's world is bound by the small pastry shop he runs and his day to day existence with his mother, who does the housekeeping. He has given up the idea of living independently. But one day she goes to Beirut and stays there, without warning, leaving a larder well stocked with labeled packages of food. But her son is for the first time challenged to try life on his own.

He has plenty to eat in the house, but what is he to do? His world was so circumscribed that his planned vacation in Egypt was to have been with his mother, and when she refused to go he had to cancel the trip, and was stuck with the tickets. Alone, he meets a neighboring businessman, and an old friend (Theodore Hakim), who prods him to find a woman. As the film unfolds he sees a prostitute (Nawal Mekdad), whom he meets via text messages. He hangs out with little Walid, first an annoyance, momentarily a companion, whom he takes to a closed amusement park. At his friend's urging he impulsively hires an Ethiopian maid (Sablawork Tesfay) through a slick, brutal contractor played by Rania's father, Nazim Attieh. But the maid is sullen and doesn't speak a word of Arabic.

One of the things that emerges is how maids in this part of the world are virtual slaves, kept locked in. An obvious but nonetheless richly symbolic sequence has Man adopt a caged bird when the maid escapes. Who is the prisoner here now? Another lesson is that such is the closeness of the family that living with one's mom in one's late thirties is not abnormal here, and the Man, though a bit nerdy, isn't really weird, or lacking in confidence or authority, or at least the facade of them.

The texture of the film is naturalistic and documentary, the latter effect enhanced by brief video-shot diaries in which various characters briefly talk to the camera about their lives. It is perhaps appropriate that the scenes with younger women, the prostitute and the maid, are the most uncomfortable, because Man seems unlikely to get married. Each character comes forth vividly, even the brief cameo roles. All are non-actors, well used.

The filmmakers capture the local atmosphere and the life there so well that, though not a great deal happens, this film doesn't look or feel like any other. The Man's lack of activity enhances the strong focus on place. The camera is kept unobtrusive.

Okay, Enough Goodbye debuted at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October 2010, and has been in five other fests through 2011. It was screened for this review at the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival, where it is in the New Directors competition and is scheduled as follows:

Fri, Apr 20 6:30 pm
Sun, Apr 29 12:00 noon
Tue, May 1 8:50 pm

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