Tribeca Breakdown: "Ali Blue Eyes"

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Claudio Giovannesi’s award-winning second dramatic feature captures one week in the life of sixteen-year-old troublemaker Nader (Nader Sarhan), who, despite his family’s insistence that he respect his Muslim roots, fights, steals and pursues an Italian girlfriend. A stunning example of contemporary Italian neo-realism, Alì Blue Eyes is an engrossing coming-of-age story about an immigrant who will stop at nothing to fit in.
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In a quest to see as many movies as possible at this years festival, I was bound to find a few that just made me want to close my eyes and go back to sleep. “Ali Blue Eyes” is that movie, one that had more going on in my seat (squirming, yawning, watch-checking) than on the screen.

 
Italian director Claudio Giovanessi’s film is about Nader (Nader Sarhan), an Egyptian boy living with his family in Italy. He is 16, prime age to want to be in love and have sex with his cute Italian girlfriend Brigitte (Brigitte Apruzzesi), except his family, especially his mother (Fatima Mouhaseb), is against such things for religious reasons. Little does she know that Nader and his Italian buddy Stefano (Stefano Rabatti) are robbing stores, doing coke, going to clubs, and getting into violent encounters.

 
When Nader disobeys his mom and goes out to meet Brigitte, she bars him from the house and he runs away, refusing to return until she changes her mind. He winds up spending more time with Stefano and his friends, who are into some nasty business with some Romanians, one of which was knifed by Stefano at a club. 

 
Is this movie about Muslim values conflicting with Italian ways? Not really. Nader has trouble having sex with his girlfriend because his mom’s warnings are in his head and when Stefano tries to date Nader’s younger sister, he gets pissed, but that could also be because Stefano is a dirtbag, in addition to being a non-Muslim.

 
The movie is more about teenage rebellion, but doesn’t have the context to make that interesting. Whether this is a movie about Nader learning that crime is taking him further away from religion or that religion has already left him and crime is all that’s left is hard to figure out, the internal struggle isn’t presented well here. Without that Nader just seems like another punk kid involved with some other punk kids.

 
“Ali” is a movie that I just can’t poinpoint other than to say that I didn’t think much of anything happened in it.