Review: ‘Autobus’

A young dance troupe crosses the country in an ancient bus, bringing its upbeat message to the hide-bound provinces in "Autobus." Kitschy-pop colorful, and with its sights clearly set on entertaining local auds, pic will pick up mostly Mideast fares.

A young dance troupe crosses the country in an ancient bus, bringing its upbeat message to the hide-bound provinces in “Autobus.” This rough-and-ready Lebanese musical by veteran TV documaker Philippe Aractingi (“The Dream of the Acrobat Child”) updates the traditional dabkeh folk dance to show how new and old values together can weld post-war Lebanon back together. Kitschy-pop colorful, and with its sights clearly set on entertaining local auds, pic will pick up mostly Mideast fares.

The civil war has dispersed the students of Utopia College, but when Kamal (Rodney El Haddad) returns from abroad, he pulls dancers who once fired shots at each other back into a group. His untraditional approach to dabkeh gets them ousted from a national competition, but a TV presenter takes up their cause and makes them famous as they tour their tacky act. Cast has little chance to explore the broadly drawn characters — the jovial old bus driver, the gay dancers, the sex kitten, the “aging” beauty (Nadine Labaki) pushing 30 who is still hooked on Kamal. They hit their stride at an exhilarating wedding in Baalbek, after which it’s all unnecessary miles.

Autobus

Lebanon

Production

A Fantascope Prods./Autobus production. Produced, directed, written by Philippe Aractingi.

Crew

Camera (color), Garry Turnbull; music, Ali el Khatib, Simon Emmerson, Martin Russell; art director, Cynthia Zahar; costume designers, Milia M, Mirna Dib, Rhea Naffi; choreographer, Alissa Caracalla. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Arabian Nights), Dec. 15, 2005. Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Rodney El Haddad, Nadine Labaki, Nada Abou Farhat, Omar Rajeh, Liliane Nemri, Bshara Attalah, Mounir Malaeb, Mahmoud Mabsout.
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