"Film Kteer Kbeer" is a Big Step Forward for Lebanese Cinema
I’m generally skeptical about Lebanese movie productions. If they’re not inane, they’re clichéd. If they’re not clichéd, they’re melancholic. And if they’re not melancholic, the acting is hideously subpar.
So I attended the avant premiere of “Film Kteer Kbeer” with some serious qualms. Even the title struck me as lame—in English, it’s “Very Big Shot” which is equally unpersuasive. But a bit of Googling unearthed that this movie had attracted notice at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier in the year. Surely there was some merit to it, right?
"Kteer Kbeer" follows three brothers—Ziad, Joe and Jad Haddad—who run a small pizza parlor in the industrial city of Dekweneh. Jad has just been released from prison after serving a five-year juvenile sentence for a murder Ziad committed. The pizzeria is in fact a front for a cocaine business they operate. Order a “speciale” and your pizza will come accompanied by a salt packet filled with powdered coke and a $100-price tag.
Ziad and Joe had originally agreed that when Jad completed his term in jail, they’d cease their illicit deeds and instead pour hard work and integrity into a restaurant. But when Ziad gets mixed up in one last bloody mission arranged by his drug dealer only to find himself swimming in hundreds of thousands of Captagon pills, he succumbs to temptation and perpetuates his criminal undertakings, much to the dislike of Joe.
|Alain Saadeh plays the stern and calculating Ziad in "Film Kteer Kbeer"|
The movie adds a spectacular twist where Ziad, in a eureka moment, opts to finance the making of his friend Charbel’s movie, due to be filmed between Beirut and Erbil. The Iraqi city is determined to be the destination for the Captagon, which are smuggled inside film reels and pass totally unnoticed through Beirut airport.
I won’t reveal the movie’s unexpected ending, which, if you’re savvy about Lebanese corruption, will strike you as extremely appropriate. What I will say is that the actors, particularly co-writer Alain Saadeh who plays Ziad, pull off a very believable and intriguing performance. The storyline draws you in, though I felt the movie suffered from some slow moments (the scene where Charbel and Ziad have a discussion over shish barak is unquestionably awkward and dull).
Nonetheless, this debut feature of writer-director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya is riveting and brings together a solid cast of silver-screen newbies. It’s a refreshing step forward for Lebanese cinema.
Be sure to catch it in theaters beginning today, November 19.