Movie Reviews: Wonderful World and The Lost City


Yesterday the Shashati Show at Cinemagic transpired. To give merit and lauds to the adaptability and endurance of the human condition, I managed to brave +40 Celsius heat for almost three hours, without breaking into a sweat. Among other noteworthy great feats and accomplishments of man, four different films from the region were presented. Although, I was deeply disappointed that the original host of the event, Showtime's upcoming standup comedian and the most famous Korean-Arab Wonho Chung was not in attendance, I was still pleasantly surprised by the experience. I will write about the two Kuwaiti films that were aired, one of which was my favorite of the night and the other, the least.

1. Wonderful World

Surely the most dazzling gem and well-marketed film of the set, "Wonderful World" by Tamir Naber brings to Kuwait a genre that I had thought previously unknown to these shores: The Musical. The invitation description of the movie is as follows:

This is the musical journey of star-crossed lovers Zaid (Nima Algooneh) & Zaina (Sama Falah) in their quest for marital bliss. Lost in a world where men and women speak different languages, they pay a visit to marriage counselor extraordinaire Dr. Brendt (Tamer Gargour), but little do they know, he has problems of his own!

Although I do not boast to know that much about the select amount of bonafied Kuwaiti films, Wonderful World surely adds a fresh, new element to this set. From the moment the ensemble of singer/actors/dancers breeze through their introductory musical item number in crayola, the audience knows its in for a sweet nectar of an experience. Even though the movie's main subject deals with marital conflict and personal crisis, the movie never forsakes allowing these actors to exhume their upmost cuteness throughout the entire duration.

Art does not incubate in a void, rather it is the product of the elements surrounding those who create it. Thus, many films in the region might be prone to reacting against a society that too often inhibits freedom of expression. In countries that aim to suppress, movie makers might aim to shock. In a political climate of segregation, religious extremism, and in some cases, conflict, directors and writers might focus on exploring these topics that shape their daily lives.

However, in this pure action-reaction paradigm, art often too easily becomes the mere foil of the oppressor, without its own backbone and often as buffoonish and as caricatured as the forces against which it fights. Therein lies my disappointment with the Kuwaiti movie, Banana, which I felt held little value other than to perforate norms of premarital sex and sexual frustration in Muslim societies with precisely this: shock, nonsensical-ness and interspliced images under the escape-chute of "surrealism".

And this is where Wonderful World steps, better said, pirouettes in. In its examination of a newlywed couple's first marital crisis, the movie does not attempt to tackle difficult subject matters of topics often deliberately ignored in the greater public eye, such as women's rights, domestic abuse, or empty marriages. Rather, it tells a universal, carefree bubblegum tale of two lovers (who also seem to be each other's best friend as well) too in love with their own love story to not make things work out. In this way, the movie is infused with its own youthful soul, as it has been created with its own image in mind, not a reactionary counterpoint to society.

The soundtrack is varied, has applicable lyrics and is executed well by the actors, who each deliver a their lines with an inviting singing tone. The two main actors are so down to earth and natural in both their character portrayal and delivery that you feel as if you already know the characters in your own life.

One of the greatest factors working in the movies favor is the wonderful love-hate chemistry between the two main actors. Zaid, a lovable Gen-Y husbum is played by linen-sporting, suspender strapping, fedora tilting eye-candy Nima Algooneh, while his outspoken, girl-in-charge wife, Zaina, is played by the honeydew Sama Falah. Their zingy one-line cut-downs and playful critisms of each other perfectly encapsulate the travails of newlyweds. They fight all the time over every new obstacle presented in their adjustment to married life, but at the same time, their fresh love makes it so that they almost seem to enjoy the banter of argument itself. The quick ignition disagreements lead to quick and tango-passion making up sessions, that if anything, seem to keep the couple entertained with each other-and the audience as well in the process. The role of the therapist was hilariously executed by Tamer Gargour with perfect Dr. Freud comical diction. However, what was missing was a greater interaction between the three of them. Dialogues were reserved for Zaina and Zaid, and monologues relegated to the therapist. Can there not be a three-way conversation?

In sum, I think its pretty obvious that this was my favorite movie of the evening. The character development was excellent, the wardrobe and set fresh, chic and contemporary, the actors executed their lines wonderfully, and the greatest credit can be given to the writer for the witty, tongue-in-cheek dialogue that had me laughing the whole time.

I would love to find a copy of this movie to post online.

2. The Lost City

Given my obsession with Kuwait's urbanization without a trace of history, the title "Lost City" mislead me into thinking the movie's focus would be as such. The film begins with the main character, a spiky-haired, mallrat suspect man in his twenties on his way to what seems to be a lazy-Friday middafternoon cheeto and redbull Baqala run. In front of the shop, he slips on some discarded batteries and knocks himself unconscious, only to find himself....low and behold! the middle of a souk in an pre-modern medina.

Although he like totally is so sure he randomly landed on some wack movie set, the picture does not seem to cut like it should after a take, and he soon realizes he seems to have transported back in time, or at least a long time ago, in a city far, far away. After being mistakingly thrown into the local jail, where he befriends a strangely cloaked man with a strangely worded mission, our digital-age protagonist seems to bypass the "oh shit, where am I?" factor to quickly take up his new friend's noble cause. And what might this cause be? Why restitution of the dethroned royal family over rule of the kingdom after having been maneuvored out of power by an evil, macchiavellian minister. In short, the movie seemed to me to have several different robbed elements: the set design and soundtrack of a sappy Lebanese historical telenovela, the entire plot, bit by bit of the Lion King, and the two-dimensional honor code of some of the later Lord of the Rings installments.

Most of all, the main actor's physical comedy wore my patience thin. A himbo through and through. his brain-dead theatrics pervaded through the entire film, which-while funny at first-only ridiculed and belittled the already pretentious moral airs of the royal family when the two parties were juxtaposed later in the film. For example, at the end of the movie, in a great WTF? moment, the newly instated King's first action is to appoint the main character to be one of his new ministers. The whole idea is implausible, and perhaps I am missing the point, as the entire world after all is a fabricated dream of the main character's concussion-induced delusion, but at the same time, it frustrated me that the main character did not seem to mature or learn from the experience in any way.

Rather than the story of a young man who develops an understanding of "doing whats right" for the good of a nation, a tale of the unyielding perseverance and sacrifice of good leaders over the morally corrupt and self-interested, or a message of "it takes a village", the movie plot comes off more as a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Upon awakening from knocking himself out in his slip-up, he wakes up and realizes everything was a dream. Probably lacking the sufficient brain cells for adequate long-term memory, he walks off to the cue of the credits, leaving us unsure if the main character's dream lessons will be carried over in his daily behavior and actions. To me, it did not seem like our protagonist "got the memo", and even if he did, the whole plot of the gallant prince regaining grassroots following in his kidnapped kingdom to retake the land seemed extremely preachy to me. In fact, it seemed like a public service mouthpiece for the royal families in any of these Gulf monarchies.

In sum, The Lost City seems to me to be a lost opportunity to discuss a lot of other, more pertinent things: the lack of civic duty among youth today, the loss of traditional culture in the contemporary cityscape, even the Parliament-Royal family political divide. Instead we are given a loopy, ridiculous main anti-hero-whose goofy theatrics only make you more annoyed with him, and even with his entire generation of gel-haired, acid-washed jeans sporting, irredeemably dumb boys, by the end of the film.

1 Response on "Movie Reviews: Wonderful World and The Lost City"

  1. Yazan says:

    Dearest Victoria,

    As the Producer of the film, I want to thank you for attending our show and for your glowing review of "Wonderful World". I'm delighted that you enjoyed the film!

    Please let me know if there's anything further I can help you with. My e-mail address is:

    Thanks again!