Writer-Director : Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
Cast: Alain Saadeh, Fouad Yammie, Marcel Ghanem.
107min Lebanon Qatar Crime Satire
Beirut-born director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s first feature is a hard-hitting and original crime drama that embodies the grit and explosive feistiness of the Middle Eastern Arabs it portrays, and their situational sense of humour.
Satirical in its social commentary Very Big Shot has echoes of the Hollywood outing Argo and even Woody Allen’s classic Small Time Crooks. Here, two small time drug-dealing brothers, Ziad (Alain Saadeh) and Joe (Tarek Yaacoub), decide to extend their illegal activities from a small family bakery into a more ambitious concern. They discover that they can disguise international exports in film canisters, which can bypass x-ray scanners in airports – but first they have to make a convincing film.
The brothers hire a film director named Charbel (Fouad Yammine) who enters into the spirit of the enterprise with great gusto, although he is unaware that the movie is a hoax. The storyline is a forbidden romance akin to Shakespeare’s tale of forbidden love ‘Romeo and Juliet’ transported to the streets of Beirut: a Christian girl meets a Muslim boy and they fall in love. But the film within the film starts to take on a life of its own as events spiral out of control and fiction and reality begin to coalesce in ways they never imagined, with hilarious results.
Despite some obvious flaws in tone and pacing, the clever camerawork and an amusing script shows how the film develops, gradually involving the wider community in the ongoing narrative. Bou Chaaya cleverly blend his genres in this solid, well-crafted and inventive debut. MT
SCREENING IN COMPETITION AT THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2015