A delightfully inventive valentine to his 83-year-old Lebanese grandmother, Mahmoud Kaabour’s “Grandma, a Thousand Times” tenderly deconstructs the family-portrait genre, investing all manner of postmodernist distancing devices with emotional resonance. Thus, the revelation of a fictional scene or setup, far from upending the documentary’s verite, only intensifies the conspiratorial union between the filmmaker and his teta. Opening Dec. 2 at Gotham’s IFC Center, this genial, often hilarious 48-minute crowdpleaser could support an extended run, particularly if cannily paired with a complementary offering.
Of course it helps that fearlessly outspoken grandma Fatima El Ghoul brings so much character and color to the table, puffing on her hookah while surveying the Beirut streets from her balcony, dissing the helmer’s fiancee in one breath while dousing her in extravagant praise in the next. Together, grandmother and grandson vividly evoke distant memories that increasingly inhabit the film, particularly those of her much-missed, famous violinist husband and the old Beirut where he thrived, the window behind them transformed into a magic screen unfurling dreamlike imagery. Even a prosaic clothesline surreally sports a hanging violin as the grandfather’s melodic strains fill the soundtrack.