Shadi Alfons, Fadi Rifaai, and Fahad Albutairi in the road dramedy From A to B
The Arab Film Festival returns to the Museum of Photographic Arts this week and with it a promise to “provide realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history, and politics.” The jury’s still out on just how realistic the wild road comedy From A to B is, but in light of the events of the past weekend, a communal laugh might be just the temporary tonic needed to attract viewers.
From A to B, screening Saturday, November 21 at 8:55 p.m., is one of six films to play the AFF November 20–22 at the Museum of Photographic Arts. For tickets and more information, visit sandiegoaff.org.
From A to B
Did you hear the one about the three Muslims — a Saudi DJ (Fahad Albutairi), the Syrian son of a diplomat (Fadi Rifaai), and the Egyptian mama’s boy (Shadi Alfons) — who embarked on a road/guilt trip from Abu Dabi to Beirut that five years earlier was cut short due to a friend’s death?
We’ve seen this kind of picture many times before — a trio of old friends reunites, and during the course of a communal journey discover how little they have in common. Don’t expect this relatively breezy road picture to lob many bricks in the form of messages in your lap. (That’s not a criticism.) For the greater part of an hour, From A to B does indeed follow in those familiar footsteps. What eventually helps to separate it from the rest, other than a war-torn backdrop, is director Ali F. Mostafa’s refusal to make any of the trio all that likeable.
Rami (Shadi Alfons) still lives at home and fashions himself an activist. His sole claim to the handle: a non-revolutionary 737 Twitter followers. Omar’s (Rifaai) 8-months-pregnant bride questions her husband’s decision to spend a chunk of their last trimester having fun with the fellas. (Omar also harbors the film’s darkest secret.) An obligatory second-act romance comes crashing to an abrupt halt the minute Jay (Albutairi) confesses one of the reasons he helped to sabotage his pick-up’s “cultural holiday” was because she was a Jew.
There are the few occasional wrong turns. Limp-wristed laughs ensue when two cops mistake the extraction of a scorpion’s poison from one of the young man’s breasts by way of sucking as a public display of homoerotic affection. This is only compounded when the boy’s father expresses relief to find that his son was merely poisoned and not gay.
The trio frequently quotes their dead friend’s pet precept, “It’s not the destination, it’s the time spent on the road.” Fortunately, Mostafa’s sprawling tale of hurt feelings and bruised egos follows the same path helping to make this journey vastly watchable.