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Film

A rom-com from Saudi Arabia

Hailed as the “the first romantic comedy” from a country where ultraconservative mores dictate strict dating rules, Barakah Meets Barakah is a refreshing look at the lives of millenials in the Middle East.

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Stand-up comedian, Youtube artist and producer Hisham Fageeh stars as Barakah, the awkward Saudi Arabian civil servant in love with the rich, beautiful and liberated Bibi. Hailed as “the first romantic comedy” from a country known for an ultra-conservative version of Islam that obsessively polices public morality and keeps women wrapped in black cloaks and away from the wheel, this all-Saudi production falls back on a refreshingly down-to-earth narrative premise: boy meets girl, but how do you date when gender segregation means there’s no way you can be seen together in public? Employing satirical comedy to subversive effect, director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s spirited debut is supported by an endearing cast. Constraints due to on-site shooting in the city of Jeddah, including some rather guerilla-style sequences, add freshness and authenticity. Beyond its conventional entertainment value, Barakah Meets Barakah remains a real curiosity, lifting a corner of the veil from daily life in the Arab kingdom.