×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Heaven Before I Die

A whimsical, offbeat indie comedy, "Heaven Before I Die" tells the tall tale of a young immigrant who arrives in Canada from "the Holy Land" (Palestine is coyly left unnamed, though everybody is wearing red checkered headdresses) and succeeds in overcoming a physical handicap and finding love, money and happiness, not to mention some kind of meaning in life.

With:
Jacob - Andy Velasquez
Thief - Giancarlo Giannini
Selma - Joanna Pacula
Khalil Gibran - Omar Sharif

A whimsical, offbeat indie comedy, “Heaven Before I Die” tells the tall tale of a young immigrant who arrives in Canada from “the Holy Land” (Palestine is coyly left unnamed, though everybody is wearing red checkered headdresses) and succeeds in overcoming a physical handicap and finding love, money and happiness, not to mention some kind of meaning in life. Pic’s imagination and gentle humor will attract fest programmers, and a good cast should help it in selected arthouse situations.

Told in the first person, Jacob’s story begins in Jerusalem or thereabouts, where his first memory as a baby is watching a belly dancer perform. He grows into a handsome young man (Andy Velasquez) whose only defect is his feet, so turned out that he walks like Charlie Chaplin. A warm family circle cushions him from the sting of being different, but finally he decides to emigrate to Toronto, where “all people are created equal.”

Instead of turning into a desperate immigrant story, pic sticks to light, ironic farce. At every turn, Jacob’s naive trustfulness is met with outrageous kindness. A small-time gentleman thief who robs cash machines (Giancarlo Giannini) takes him into his comfortable house and treats him like a son. Lovely waitress Selma (Joanna Pacula) finds him a job as a Chaplin imitator. His act with a pig gains him fame and fortune, but almost loses him his soul and Selma’s love.

Among the more amusing scenes is Jacob’s visit to a secret society called Paradise, where people dress as inspiring historical figures; “The Prophet’s” Khalil Gibran (Omar Sharif) gives Jacob some wise counsel.

Director-writer Izidore K. Musallam injects the film with an ironic tone of innocence, in a world viewers know is corrupt just beyond the edges of the screen. Pic’s achievement is to insist illogically on human goodness without sounding trite or false.

Newcomer Velasquez has fresh charm as the sensitive, slow-talking boy from the Holy Land. Both Giannini, as the gangster, and Sharif, as Gibran, are very amusing, while Pacula shines with intelligent sincerity as Jacob’s love interest. Tech work is imaginative, too, in stretching a no-doubt modest budget.

Heaven Before I Die

Production: A Brothers in Arms production. (International sales: PM Entertainment.) Produced by Steven Cole. Co-producer, Karen Severin. Executive producers, Joseph Merhi, Rick Pepin, George Shamieh, George Miller. Directed, written by Izidore K. Musallam.

Crew: Camera (color), Mark Willis; editor, Evan Landis; music, George Brasovan; production design, Taavo Soodor; associate producer, Michalis Derbas. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 11, 1997. Running time: 95 min.

With: Jacob - Andy Velasquez
Thief - Giancarlo Giannini
Selma - Joanna Pacula
Khalil Gibran - Omar Sharif
With: Geoffrey Lower, Burt Young, Joe Bologna.

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content