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Arbid pushes limit with sexy ‘Man’

Director doubts film will screen in the Arab world

Lebanese helmer Danielle Arbid may find that getting her film “A Lost Man” into Cannes’ official selection was a piece of cake compared to getting it released in the Arab world.

The steamy pic, which bowed in Directors’ Fortnight, tells the story of a French photog’s journey through the region’s brothels and bars, and his curiosity with a Lebanese amnesiac who fled the country’s civil war 17 years earlier. Arbid’s pic is arguably the most sexually graphic ever from an Arab helmer.

With the female cast spending much of their screen time in various states of undress, the film is scaring off Arab distribs. Arbid even hired two adult film actresses for some of the more explicit scenes.

“I don’t think the film will screen in the Arab world,” said Arbid. “There are lots of good, intelligent people there but they’re not used to seeing a film like this made by an Arab director even if they are used to seeing it from Western directors.” Another big issue is that a woman directed it, noted Arbid.

Debut appearance by adult-film actress Yasmin Lafitte, of Moroccan origin, recalls story of Berlinale Golden Bear winner Fatih Akin’s “Head-On.” The latter’s lead actress Sibel Kekilli won the actress prize, only to see the German tabloids expose her adult-film past. Kekilli’s Turkish family subsequently disowned her.

Lafitte, who now lives in France, has suffered a similar fate with her own family refusing to have any contact with her. Not that it’s stopping her from pursuing her twin track careers.

“I love to work in pornos and traditional films,” said Lafitte. “People are surprised when they see sex and nudity because it’s taboo.”

“A Lost Man” could prove to be a landmark film in Arab cinema, even if local auds never get the chance to see it on the bigscreen.

“Maybe it’s better that they get shocked,” said vet Lebanese thesp Darina al Joundi, who also disrobes in the film. “We wouldn’t even be talking about this if it was an American or European actress. I’m an actress and my body is an instrument.”

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