Saudi Arabia’s first rom-com features comedian and social-media superstar Hisham Fageeh as a mild-mannered civil servant who runs up against his society’s strict mores when he sets out to romance the outspoken daughter of a wealthy couple.
Barakah Meets Barakah
Oil... Wealth... Romance? The first rom-com from Saudi Arabia challenges the notions that typically come to mind when Westerners think of the largest country in the Gulf. Directed by first-time filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh, Barakah Meets Barakah takes a cheeky look at censorship, Middle Eastern history, and modern love — Saudi style.
By day, Barakah (comedian Hisham Fageeh) is a mild-mannered civil servant who half-heartedly penalizes petty bylaw infractions on the streets of Jeddah. After hours, out of his thawb, he dreams of being an actor. When he responds to a tip that an "immodest" fashion shoot is taking place, he meets Bibi, an outspoken Instagram star (Fatima Al Banawi). Bibi is the adopted daughter of a very rich and very dysfunctional couple, and, like Barakah, is unhappy with her lot in life; she dreams of something bigger than modelling abayas. The pair click, but what comes next poses a challenge. Dating is no mean feat in any country. In Saudi Arabia, it's nearly impossible.
As Barakah and Bibi forge on ahead, defying nosy parents and religious policemen, a comedy of errors ensues — one that sheds light not just on the trials of courtship but on Saudi society as well. Sabbagh satirizes the culture's repressive tendencies by pixelating shots of "forbidden" images such as tattoos and the female body, and, in more reflective moments, Barakah recalls a time in Saudi Arabia when cafés and cinemas were the norm.
With shades of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and She's Gotta Have It, this freewheeling, engaging romantic romp has real weight even though its humorous touch is as light as air.