Tribeca ’07: Falafel (review)

Did you know that one Lebanese girl out of two is an excellent dancer?

One night in Beirut, and it’s instantly recognizable to anyone who lives in a major city: neon lights, fast-food joints, busy streets, and a party to be gotten to. It might not be quite fair to say that this affable little flick is about Lebanese slackers — Tou, our hero, has a job in an Internet cafe, even if he’s rather desultory about performing his menial duties — but it’s clear that writer-director Michel Kammoun has seen a lot of movies about the American variety, and that he really likes them … the movies and the slackers. Tou’s biggest challenge this night: getting to that party, on a moped borrowed from his job, so he can hook up with pretty Yasmin; his dork friend Abbouddi is along for the fun. A parking-lot altercation over a scratched bumper ruins the evening, though, and Tou is distracted with thoughts of vengeance, and here’s where Kammoun’s unique perspective turns what started out as an amiable cinematic jaunt into something far more profound and provocative. The ready violence into which a Hollywood film might casually explode is not on Kammoun’s agenda: subverting that mindset is, with a touchingly homey matter sidetracking Tou in the most loving way. And what could have been a diverting but ultimately throwaway movie experience becomes something you just can’t shake.

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