Monday, August 28, 2006

Cinema....El Próximo Oriente

El Próximo Oriente, the latest film by Spanish director Fernando Colomo, is set in the Madrid barrio of Lavapiés. This area has in recent years become the entry point in Madrid for immigrants from all over the world, and the film reflects this new diversity.

For me the film is marred from the beginning by the unlikely plot, in which our timid hero Caín (played by Javier Cifrián) offers to marry the daughter of his Bangladeshi neighbours (Nur Al Levi), who his philandering brother (not surprisingly named Abel – played by Asier Etxeandia) has left pregnant. He converts to Islam in order to gain the acceptance of the family, and passes himself off as the father of his wife’s unborn child, in the process being adopted as part of his new family.

Leaving his job in a butcher’s shop, Caín sets about the renovation of the family restaurant which leads us into the part of the film where the clash of cultures becomes most apparent. Anyone who has seen the British film East is East will be familiar with some of the issues raised in this film, notably the difficulties of a traditionalist immigrant father having to come to terms with the fact that his children are growing up in a society very different from that which he left behind.

This film does not work for me as well as East is East, apart from my doubts over the plot the setting is a bit too artificial, and too often the film opts for the most predictable of outcomes. However, Colomo is not a director who seeks to make grand statements about social issues in his films, in reality this is a comedy-drama which does little to provoke too much thought about the background against which it is set. Despite this, it reflects new realities and a film like this would have been almost unthinkable as little as 10 years ago, a sign of just how quickly Spain has become home to immigrants from Asia, Africa and South America. It’s a watchable film, and has some enjoyable moments, but it never really takes off.

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