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In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, in Arabia, Emir Nesib of Hobeika defeats Sultan Amar of Salma after years of war between their tribes and they make a peace treaty creating "The Yellow Belt", a large no man's land that would separate their lands and would not belong to neither of them. Further, Nesib demands the sons of Amar, Saleh and Auda, to be raised together with his children Tarik and Leyla by him in Hobeika as a guarantee of their agreement. Fifteen years later, representatives of the Texas Oil find oil in the Yellow Belt and the modern and liberal Emir Nesib sees the opportunity to improve and modernize the life of his tribe, building hospitals and schools, and the American Company begins the exploitation of the oil field, violating the peace pact. Nasib sends a representative to make an agreement with the fundamentalist Sultan Amar, but he does not accept the offer. Saleh decides to travel to Salma to talk to his father and kills his two companions, but he is ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
What a delight! My guilty pleasure of the year and I don't care who knows it.
I remember when Lawrence of Arabia came out, long ago. The most stunning things about it were Peter O'Toole, the haunting music, and the hard won shots of the desert. I would have traded it all to learn the details of desert warfare, but it failed to do more than offer a glimpse. Instead it wallowed in Lawrence's tortured mind to little purpose, creating a deeply dissatisfying movie. Now, years later, my antidote has come in the form of a real story, the kind I longed for as a kid, but seldom found.
If you consider the people of the Arabian desert savage, superstitious barbarians, you won't be able to enjoy this movie. But if you can suspend your prejudice long enough to be convinced, they do a fine job of conveying how a totally foreign and ancient culture can make more than a little sense in today's world.
Is it all fantasy, these unusually noble men with their deep distrust of western values? I doubt it. There are always ineffable things about a people's true dreams and character that have little to do with their actual history, that can only really be expressed in art. If I were Arab I'd be very happy to see a movie like this about how my forefathers reacted to the first oil wells and the riches they promised.
The lead, Tahar Rahim, is spot on as the bookish Prince Auda, turned fighter. His father Mark Strong as the Sultan Amar has some of the best lines and is a strong and welcome presence throughout. Antonio Banderas worked for me as Emir Nesib and I admire his entire career. There's no doubt in my mind he was fully committed to this movie though some apparently found his performance distracting; I did not. As others have pointed out, Freida Pinto and Liya Kebede, as the female leads, are both fairly wasted here though there's something true about how minor their roles are given this is mostly a story about change, war and father-son relations.
No, I might forever be labeled a low brow for writing this, but I enjoyed this film much more than I did the highly acclaimed Lawrence of Arabia. This is a far more earnest and effecting film and deserves a great deal more praise than it's likely to get in the west given our politics. That's truly a shame as we could use a little sympathy and insight into these people.
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