Thursday, 18 August 2016

REVIEW - THE IDOL (HANY ABU-ASSAD)


Hany Abu-Assad is, as a filmmaker, his own worst enemy. What conceptual worth his projects may hold, and what promise they may possess on paper, he has a horrible knack for spoiling his own efforts, as well as the efforts of his collaborators. He's not a bad artist in theory - his flair for pace and rhythm always shows, he knows a memorable image when he sees one, and he has a keen ear for evocative sound design. But he is a bad craftsman, and The Idol may be the most egregious waste of his potential to date. At times a passable kid-centric yarn, at other times a quietly provocative statement on the Gazan political situation (ever Abu-Assad's ace card), this uplifting melodrama is undone by an insidious technical ineptitude. I'd be the last to criticize a director for whom means are tight in erring in this regard, but the problems in The Idol's execution are neither brief nor perfunctory. They're near-constant (particularly by the film's end), and contribute to a shoddiness and a lack of believability, ranging from the dialogue to its delivery, to the inconsistent film stock, to the sloppy edit job in combining archival footage with new material. Abu-Assad couldn't wrangle a good performance out of a mediocre actor if he was paid to (and he is), and lead Tawfeek Barhom couldn't muster up a decent lip-sync if he served 20 seasons on RuPaul's Drag Race. It's a winning story, though, whose warmth and whose understated political potency shine through no matter what technical incompetence is set before them. But it's way overdue: back to film school, Hany!