Review: ‘Kahloucha: Tarzan of the Arabs’

John Rando

More than simply a profile of the man best described as the Arab world's own Ed Wood.

More than simply an affectionate and quirky profile of the man best described as the Arab world’s own Ed Wood, “Kahloucha: Tarzan of the Arabs” subtly weaves in commentary on the North African diaspora for a more pointed look than might initially be expected. Helmer Nejib Belkadhi maintains an energetic style stripped of any condescension as he follows Moncef Kahloucha, house painter-cum-no-budget genre director, through his latest opus, simultaneously revealing the homesickness of Tunisians working abroad. Fest life has been deservedly strong, while Arte pickup may lead to wider exposure.

With just a head full of dreams and the support of locals eager to see themselves onscreen, Kahloucha directs and stars in movies more remarkable for their enthusiasm than their talent. Belkadhi follows him on his latest shoot, “Tarzan of the Arabs,” capturing his neighbors’ dream of the klieg lights and the childlike joy of making movies. Shooting on VHS in and around his hometown of Sousse, Kahloucha has developed cult status among Tunisian communities forced by economic circumstances to live — often illegally — abroad. They know the tapes are cheesy, but glimpses of home life powerfully fill their nostalgia.

Kahloucha: Tarzan of the Arabs

Tunisia

Production

A Propaganda production. (International sales: Lonely Seal Releasing, Los Angeles.) Produced by Imed Marzouk, Nejib Belkadhi. Directed, written by Nejib Belkadhi.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Chakib Eassafi; editor, Badi Chouka; music, Neshez; sound, Walid Ouerghi, Julien Hecker. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 23, 2007. (Also in Dubai, Sundance film festivals.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Moncef Kahloucha, Lassaad Rouge, Salah Chemo u Taiech, Khalti Mna, Mourad Fokhra.

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