TIFF 2011 Habibi
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TIFF 2011 Habibi

Despite an overall beauty, this love poem adaptation misses the mark.

Susan Youssef (Palestine/USA/The Netherlands/United Arab Emirates, Discovery)


Wednesday September 14, 6:30pm
AMC 7 (10 Dundas Street East)

Thursday September 15, 9:15pm
Scotiabank Theatre 4 (10 Dundas Street East)

Saturday September 17, 9:00am

AMC 10 (10 Dundas Street East)

Set in the Gaza Strip, this first feature from director Susan Youssef re-imagines a popular Persian tragic love poem, Layli o Majnun. Though it begins strongly, Habibi unfortunately falls victim to a stiff script and an ill conceived ending.

Youssef’s background in documentary is evident throughout the film as her camera manages to capture the hardship of living in the Territories, but she also creates a grander sense of the Romantic. From a tightly shot frame of Layla (Maisa Abd Elhadi) covering her ears with a pillow during a rocket attack to long takes of the star-crossed lover Qays (Kais Nashif) wandering the streets at night, Youssef clearly has an eye for finding beauty in simplicity. The subtle score is perfectly suited to the film’s quiet pacing, however, the dialogue becomes heavy handed, especially when Youssef’s camera work speaks for itself. It is the ending, however, which unfortunately undoes the film. Rather then concluding on the lovers walking off to their separate destinies, the drawn out and quasi-surreal ending fails to connect with the rest of the film. But there is talent behind Habibi; time and practice might develop the courage to use it more boldly.