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Last Updated Tuesday October 15 2019 10:52 AM IST

'The Idol': Singing in Gaza

Arathi Kannan
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The Idol: Singing in Gaza A still from the movie

Language: Arabic

Director: Hany Abu-Assad

It was the time when Palestine was divided and families became refugees in Gaza Strip. Mohammad Assaf used to sing as a boy for their amateurish band. His sister used to tell him that one day, they must all go to Cairo and sing in the Opera house. She was more confident about him than he ever was.

Based on a true story, and featured in the World Cinema category in IFFK this year, The idol narrates the euphoric story of Mohammad Assad, the single contestant from Gaza, who won the Arab Idol contest, the Arab version of the global ‘Idol’ contests taken up by different countries, in the year 2013.

The story, based on the singer, has accommodated a few fictional details for beaming the light of hope into the dismal situation of Palestinians. Mohammad Asaf became the voice of hope, and united the Palestinians scattered in refugee camps.

Mohammad lost his sister, his biggest admirer, early in his life. Growing bitter, he stops singing and practising under a musician who was another source of inspiration. Circumstances arise that propel him towards music again through Alam, a childhood friend, who shares his sister’s medical condition.

The Idol: Singing in Gaza The story, based on the singer, has accommodated a few fictional details

He decides to take a leap of faith to Egypt. To get to the place, he has to cross the Gaza strip, and if he does, he won’t be permitted inside again. Since it’s a true story, the outcome of his endeavours are already known. What’s to look out for is how it all unfolds and what kind of pressure he went through when all of Palestine’s expectations were saddled on him.

Mohammad and his feisty sister make for some light, enjoyable moments in the early parts of the film. The rapport they share leaves a trail in his life even after her death. The story is a fine narrative of delight in times of dismay.

The Idol: Singing in Gaza Mohammad and his feisty sister make for some light, enjoyable moments in the early parts of the film

Hany Abu-Assad’s previous outing Omar was featured in IFFK 2014 and actor Tawfeek Barhome, who plays Mohammad Asaf, played the lead in the 2014 IFFK inaugural film Dancing Arabs.

If it weren’t for the Gaza angle, the story would have been classified as a regular feel-good underdog coming of age film. That said, an inspirational go-getter is always subject matter for wonderment.

Star factors

» The movie has cashed in on music, and provides some great compositions.

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