11 July 2012

Okay, Enough, Goodbye is a movie told through archetypes. We don't know the name of the main character but we recognise this single, 40-year-old man, still living at home with his feisty elderly mother, through his actions. He doesn't go out for lunch with his friends without first finding out what she has cooked for him at home. His clothes are meticulously ironed and laid out for him. The house is cleaned. Even before he goes to sleep at night, he calls out to her to make sure the front door is locked. His life would have continued uninterrupted like this until the grave except for one thing. One day his mother takes the bus to Beirut and is never seen again.

The filling of that void becomes the adventure of the film, one that the protagonist, played by Walid Al-Ayoubi, reluctantly embarks upon through various liaisons - with a prostitute, the badly behaved under ten neighbour's son, his sexist Lebanese friend from the Gulf and finally a virtually silent Ethiopian maid. All of these characters too remain unnamed throughout the film and would have been just surface personalities if not for their lively individual monologues to camera that punctuate the action. They not only add additional information about onscreen relationships, they reveal who they are. In the case of the Ethiopian maid, her continual silence and fear in the house is unjustified until we learn about her pervious experiences as a servant in Lebanon and see that returning her to the agency, like some damaged consumer good, will only result in a brutal beating. Because the film's protagonist is never allowed these insights, he grows from strength to strength as he grapples with situations beyond his control. By the end of the film he is almost likable.

Okay, Enough, Goodbye has another main character and it is Lebanon's second port city of Tripoli. Periodically the travelogue, which started the film, crops up unexpectedly as scenes shift to different parts of the city - El Mina, the port area where the boats and anything else that is washed up from the sea to shore dies or in the south of the city, the permanent International Fair of Tripoli, an exhibition site consisting of 15 buildings, many of them never finished and rusting away, by the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. So in the film, these many layers of characterisation taking place, from the city to the people, build an intimate, sometime suffocating life around the main nameless man, who feels trapped by Lebanon, his job running a modest patisserie, and now loneliness at home. However, by the end of the film, his resilience wins through.

The directors, Rania Attieh, originally from Tripoli, and Daniel Garcia, from South Texas, met in a script writing class. Both moved to New York, and formed a solid cinematic partnership through the making a series of short, award winning films.Almost Brooklyn(2008), supervised by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, won Best Short Fiction from the Brooklyn Art Council;Tripoli, Quiet (2009), was awarded the Black Pearl Award for Best Middle East Short at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Okay, Enough, Goodbye  (in Arabic - Tayeb, Khalas, Yalla) is Attieh's and Garcia's first feature length film and in 2010 it took the Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Film by a New Arab Director also at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Malu Halasa, a writer and editor living in London, recently co-curated Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria which is showing at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam until 23 November 2012.

Okay, Enough, Goodbye is screening at FACT on Thursday 12 July at 6.30pm. Tickets can be booked online, by calling 0871 902 5737 or in person at the Box Office.

The Arab Film Festival is a collaboration with the long-standing Liverpool Arabic Arts Festivalwhich includes a variety of talks, exhibitions, music and events and takes place between 6-15 July.