• Golden Globe Awards

Very Big Shot (Lebanon)

In a TV interview, Lebanese director, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, despairs over the dominance of Hollywood movies in the Arab world, yet his debut feature, Very Big Shot, is dripping with Hollywood influence, echoing classics such as Get Shorty and Argo. One of his characters comments on this issue saying that he doesn’t like movies that require a Ph.D. to understand, namely art movies.Very Big Shot certainly doesn’t require an academic degree to fathom, but it’s still a very impressive piece work which transcends many of the recent movies coming out of Lebanon and the Arab world, in terms of its cinematic quality and thematic substance.The film revolves around trio of drug-dealing brothers, who shoot dead one of their business partners. The youngest, Jad, agrees to take the rap and goes to jail. His brothers decide to start a new life and open a pizza shop, but soon their past comes back to haunt them, and the older brother, Ziad, ends up making a major drug deal that thrusts them back in the illicit business. The trouble is: with the authorities and other gangsters watching him, he can’t offload the drugs. He initially uses the pizza delivery business to distribute them to his clients, but that was I a less than effective means to shift the large stash he is sitting on. He needs a big scale operation to do that and quickly, before he is discovered by other gangs.Thanks to one of his clients, he embarks on making a movie in order to use the canisters for moving the drugs out of the country. Meanwhile, Jad is released and joins the younger brother in opposing Ziad’s perilous venture. They eventually relent and end up performing in his movie. Soon, the shooting of the movie, which involves a muslim woman falling in love with a Christian man, ignites a controversy and becomes national news. Ziad relishes the attention and tries to exploit it to his advantage, pretending to be a bona-fide producer, who cares about social problems, in order to distract the authorities and his enemies. It works, but it doesn’t save him from other troubles.Bou Chaaya says that “ he wanted the film to be a portrait of his own country.” And he based it on his experience growing up in a neighborhood still reeling from a painful civil war and struggling with sectarian strife.  The film also touches on other issues that ail his country such as terrorism, institutional corruption, political decadence and, of course, a violent drug trade.  Very Big Shot received its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, and won the Marrakech film festival.