Tuesday, May 29, 2007

VHS - Kahloucha

Néjib Belkadhi | 2006 | 79 min | Tunisia

Moncef Kahloucha is a house painter in Tunisia. When he's not painting houses, he makes movies. Ambitious, unpolished movies on VHS, with the help of anyone he can wrangle from around town. It's as if Mark Borchardt from American Movie moved to Tunisia and made El Mariachi.

The documentary follows the production of Kahloucha's latest film, Tarzan of the Arabs, through to its premiere in a local café. Kahloucha casts the movie with everyone from friends, to strangers he sees in the street who fit his image of a role, to local drunks who he explains will go anywhere he wants them to go, and will even allow themselves to be beat up so long as he buys them booze. It may seem distasteful for him to take advantage of someone's weaknesses like that, but it seems as though he doesn't see the problem in it. His movies are his life, and he's willing to do pretty much anything to get them made, without a second thought. Unlike Robert Rodriguez when he made El Mariachi, Kahloucha doesn't have access to squibs and blood packs. When he needs to add blood to an actor for a post shooting close-up, he takes a knife, cuts his own arm, and applies blood from his wound to the actor's shirt and forehead to give the appearance of gunshots.

Kahloucha idolizes Clint Eastwood, Alain Delon, Bruce Lee, Charles Bronson, and Lee Van Cleef. It's very endearing, and at no point did I feel like the filmmakers were exploiting his earnestness for comedy. His vision may not be an artful or skilled one, but it's inspriring to watch his dedication and love for filmmaking.

The film doesn't only focus on Kahloucha though. It also focuses on the motley crew that makes up his dream team, and also what life is like in Kazmet, a town rife with unemployment and families with sons in jail. Making the movies is a fun distraction for most, and a dream come true for others. Nobody's making any money. Nobody's going to be the next big thing. They know that, and they're perfectly happy with it. Sure they love the bit of attention they receive from their friends and family, but really they're making the movies because they love them. They're making movies for fun. It's a wonderful pure kind of creation that I wish there was more of.

No comments: