November 2016, distribution news

"Barakah Meets Barakah"

by Mahmoud Sabbagh, opens March 9, 2017

If you were to ask a group of film experts which country is currently the least appropriate setting for a hilarious, truly wacky romantic comedy, the chances are that Saudi Arabia would come out on top. But their guesses would be wrong, as BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH provides more than enough evidence to the contrary. He’s a municipal civil servant from Jeddah whose origins are humble to say the least, while she’s a wild beauty, the adopted daughter of a rich couple whose marriage has suffered due to their lack of biological children. He’s also an amateur actor in a theatre company rehearsing a production of "Hamlet", while she functions as a crowd-puller for her stylish adoptive mother’s boutique and runs her own boisterous, widely-seen vlog. Fate brings them together – in an environment hostile to dating of any kind. But the two of them show breathtaking ingenuity to circumvent the system of tradition, etiquette and religious police – with the crucial help of a quirky midwife and a pink push up bra. BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH is a film for anyone who’s always wanted to know just what else is going on in Saudi Arabia. (Berlinale Forum catalog, Dorothee Wenner)

A gonzo sunlit noir - Mahmoud Sabbagh on his film
I want to tell stories, natural and toned-down stories from my own community. Then I would like to connect them to the outer world. Before taking this step of making Barakah yoqabil Barakah, my directorial debut, I managed to produce and direct documentaries, shorts and a TV drama series. Through my three-year journey I have undergone extensive training and gained on-set and hands-on experience. Filmmaking is tough everywhere, but in a country with an underdeveloped film landscape such as Saudi Arabia, things can get more complicated. We built a production structure and assembled a team from scratch. We picked non-actors for all the roles through extensive casting and from my everyday surroundings and community. Coaching and rehearsing took four months in order to reach a satisfying level for everyone. I like to think of BARAKAH YOQABIL BARAKAH as a gonzo sunlit noir. I have used new directing methods; anti-heroes, no fancy shots, post-romance aspects and using long lenses in very busy streets. The film was shot entirely in Jeddah, using real locations and streets with minimal production design. Since I also wrote the screenplay, I tried to keep it visual and with raw dialogue. BARAKAH YOQABIL BARAKAH is my generation’s take on public space, gender inequality, censorship, and freedom. Its about us; the disfranchised youth. I geared my film to be part of a national dialogue and to propel social progress. I hope my film will play a role in igniting more local films by real and raw Saudi talents, and that they are able to present them to the world. 

Mahmoud Sabbagh was born in 1983 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He studied Documentary Filmmaking at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Since then, he has worked as an independent film director and producer in Saudi Arabia. BARAKAH YOQABIL BARAKAH is his first full-length feature film.
Films: 2013: Story of Hamza Shahata (43 min.). 2014: Cash (TV-series, 10 x 24 min.). 2016: BARAKAH YOQABIL BARAKAH

BARAKAH YOQABIL BARAKAH

Land/Year: Saudi Arabia. Format: DCP, Blu-ray. Length: 88 Min. Language: Arabic. Language version: Original with German subtitles. Writer & director: Mahmoud Sabbagh. Director of Photography: Victor Credi. Editor: Sofia Subercaseaux, Daniel Garcia. Music: Zeid Hamdan, Maii Waleed. Sound Design: Eli Cohen. Production Design: Zainab Al Mashat, Ahmed Mater. Costumes: Nasibah Hafiz, Nasibah Hafiz, Samar Idress. With: Hisham Fageeh (Barakah), Fatima Al Banawi (Barakah / Bibi), Sami Hifny (Da’ash), Khairia Nazmi (Daya Sa’adiya), Abdulmajeed Al-Ruhaidi (Maqbool), Turki Sheikk (Turki / Agent), Marian Bilal (Sara). Producer: Mahmoud Sabbagh. Production Company: El Housh Productions (Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia). World Premiere: Februar 12, 2016, Berlinale Forum