(Arabic dialogue)Even in peacetime, there’s little stability to be had for the Beirut-dwelling protags in “Around the Pink House,” a pleasant ensemble seriocomedy that makes its points a tad too gently for a lasting impression. Debut feature for Lebanese-born writer-helmers Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas is solid fest fare with potential for international tube exposure. Having fled their rural villages 11 years ago, the Adaimi and Nawfal families settled in “the pink house,” an abandoned mansion. But now that war is over and the economy is booming, the government wants to raze it and build a shopping center. Reactions among inhabitants (who have no legal claim on digs) become bitterly, albeit comically, divided — boycotting one another’s businesses as they debate progress vs. preservation, token resettlement cash vs. public protest. Large cast limns colorful characters in the community of refugees, including patriarchs, TV reporters, a would-be militant skinhead and two shy lovers. Pic expertly sustains myriad narrative strands through amusing waves of gossip, infighting and sabotage. But individual parts are more effective than the whole; low-key approach leaves windup with insufficient punch. Still, well-tuned pacing, perfs and tech package hold the attention.
Around the Pink House
A Mille et Une Prods. presentation. Produced by Anne-Cecile Berthomeau, Edouard Mauriat. Executive producer, Djinn House Prods. Co-producer, Les Lateles du Cinema Quebecois, Jean Dansereau. Directed, written by Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige.
Camera (color), Pierre David; editor, Tina Baz Le Gall; production designer, Frederic Benard; music, Robert M. Lepage. Reviewed at Kabuki 8, San Francisco, April 6, 2000. (In S.F. Film Festival.) Original title: Autour de la maison rose. Running time: 92 MIN.
With: Joseph Bon Nassar, Mireille Safa, Chadi El Zein, Hassan Mrad, Ziad Said , Rabih Mroue, Aline Aoun, Tony Balabane, Hassan Ferat, Issam Bou Khaled, Zeina Saab de Melero, Georges Kehdy, Hanane Abboud, Nagi Sourati, Fadi Abi Samra, Maurice Maalouf.