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Mansour, a modern Emirati

Mansour, a modern Emirati

The movies and shows making the headlines from Dubai to Buenos Aires

The movies and shows making the headlines from Dubai to Buenos Aires

December/January 2017

Don’t cry for me

Twenty years ago Argentina was left stunned when the tour bus carrying Gilda, a much-beloved cumbia singer, hit a truck head-on. She died, but her legend was born. A posthumous album went double platinum. Fans still make annual pilgrimages to the shrine where she died, and many consider her a saint, capable of healing the faithful and appearing in visions. With such devotees, the excitement surrounding her first biopic has been immense. “Gilda: No Me Arrepiento de Este Amor” (“Gilda: I Do Not Regret This Love”) is an unabashed ode to Argentina’s lost sweetheart. Heartfelt without being hammy, “Gilda” has conquered the Argentine box office and is ready to hit the US in 2017.

Citizen Fatso

With the economy in meltdown and opposition to Robert Mugabe’s government rising despite violent crackdowns, you might think no news would be good news in Zimbabwe. Comrade Fatso says otherwise. His punchy satirical news programmes on YouTube have found an audience among young Zimbabweans through social media. His flagship show, “Zambezi News”, parodies the government-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation with bumbling presenters and a corrupt official dubbed the Minister of Impending Projects. Despite serious run-ins with the authorities, Fatso has launched a spin-off series, “The Week”, in which he dissects current affairs, interviews leading opposition figures and even manages to land jokes about police brutality. Sharp satire for troubled times.

Heart of darkness

For four decades the long colonial wars Portugal fought in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau have been surrounded by taboos – an inglorious and traumatic episode that the country’s young democracy preferred to forget. Now filmgoers are flocking to “Cartas da Guerra” (“Letters From War”, below), a work that lifts the veil on the conflict. Shot in the Angolan bush, the black-and-white film is drawn from letters sent by António Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s greatest living novelist, to his young wife while serving as a military doctor. Likened to “Apocalypse Now” in its impact on the psyche of a nation, the film has been chosen as Portugal’s entry for the Oscars.

Man of the people

In 1959 K.M. Nanavati, a decorated navy officer, talked his way around a jury and was found not guilty of murdering his wife’s lover. India promptly abolished trial by jury. The latest in a long line of films and plays inspired by these events is “Rustom”, a courtroom drama starring waiter-turned-superstar Akshay Kumar in the title role. Indian audiences love a hero who stands up to a corrupt establishment, and Kumar’s humble origins only heighten their enthusiasm. Although devoid of crowd-pleasing song-and-dance routines, “Rustom” was one of the highest-grossing Indian films of 2016.

Reaching for the stars

Children in the United Arab Emirates are glued to their screens when “Mansour” comes on. Cartoon Network Arabic’s animated series about a 12-year-old Emirati boy (pictured top) was designed to embody the ambitions of a young nation bent on shifting from oil to innovation. The state-owned development agency that created and funds the show hopes it will help foster a new generation of Emiratis, steeped in modernity but still rooted in tradition. In his long robe and ghutrah headdress, Mansour plays judo and dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer. The formula works; Mansour is now ubiquitous, from mobile apps to a new clothing line out just in time for tots to be suitably attired when season three airs next year.

Match me no match

Three sisters resist attempts by their meddlesome grandmother to marry them off in “Ini Kisah Tiga Dara” (“This is the Tale of Three Maidens”), Nia Dinata’s retelling of a much loved musical comedy from 1956. Dinata rediscovered the original while working on a project to restore classic film reels. Musicals are rare in Indonesia, but new audiences appreciate how this one challenges stuffy attitudes towards women, marriage and sex. Although the film is less daring than some of Dinata’s previous work (in 2003 “Arisan!” was the country’s first to show two men kissing) it was initially restricted to over-21s, on the grounds that it promoted loose morals – its original ending gently endorsed unmarried motherhood. The director had to spend a month making changes to persuade them to lower the restrictions and let in the punters.

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