Berlinale: Barakah Meets Barakah ( Barakah yoqabil Barakah )

Barakah Meets Barakah (Barakah yoqabil Barakah)
Directed by Mahmoud Sabbagh
Starring Hisham Fageeh and Fatima AlBanawi

by Malin Arvidsson

Saudi Arabia would probably be one of the last countries you would expect a romantic comedy from. But Barakah Meets Barakah, which is the first feature film from Saudi Arabia ever to be shown at the Berlinale, is just that!

Barakah, a civil servant whose job it is to make sure other people follow the strict laws of the country, meets Bibi, an Instagram celebrity, and they take a liking to each other. This is a light-hearted story about two young people who try to find ways to date in spite of the strict laws that prevent unmarried women and men interacting in public spaces. The film is full of quirky jokes which you can understand even without knowing the culture of the country, but I can imagine that many young people from Saudi Arabia can identify themselves with the difficulties and frustrations that the two main characters are going through.

Barakah Meets Barakah respects Saudi Arabian rules by, for example, not showing any physical contact between the couple.  Even though there are no obvious political statements in the film, on some occasions you watch how Barakah reflects on the differences between social life in Saudi Arabia in present day to what it was like in the more liberal ’60s/’70s, and you can sense his frustration.

The film was filmed in Saudi Arabia with a Saudi Arabian cast and it is one of the very few feature films which has been made in Saudi Arabia at all – in Saudi Arabia there is currently only one cinema and it only shows documentaries.  Barakah Meets Barakah could be the ground-breaking film that changes the entertainment industry in the country, and in that sense it is a historical film!


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