'City of Life'

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2010 by Stained in Labels: , , ,

I went to watch ‘City of Life’ with a friend after the badminton tweetup on Saturday. It was a bit of a last minute decision because according the cinema websites; Saturday was the last day it was playing and both of us really wanted to watch it. That turned out to be wrong but that didn’t matter, it was a nice night out.

Directed, written and produced by Ali F. Mostafa, a UAE based film maker, I heard about the film for the first time during the Dubai international film festival 2009 where it supposedly ended up being the most watched film. Being the first Emirati full length feature, I was looking forward to seeing how Dubai had been depicted so when I heard about its release, I tried to find someone to go with. There was a tweetup for it but it clashed with some personal commitments so I missed that opportunity.

Anyway coming to the film, it revolves around the life of an Emirati called Faisal (played by Saoud Al Kaabi) who’s unsure about his identity in society, an Indian taxi driver called Basu (played by Sonu Sood) dreaming to become a big Indian actor, a flight attendant called Natalia Moldovan (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) looking for companionship and an old Filipino cardboard collector (played by Itlanas Jr) and how their lives converge in the end for better or worse.

City of life’ is a drama set in the urban environment that is Dubai. How people from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds are trying to find themselves, figure things out and live. It also shows how certain actions and their reactions leads to a domino effect in their lives where some find hope and some find a reason to live.

Saoud Al Kaabi played his role well though he was completely over shadowed by Yassin Alsalman who plays his aggressive emotional friend to perfection. Sonu Sood as the taxi driver dreaming big was good in patches as I thought at some points in the film he could have showed more emotions to get the viewers really involved in his plight. Alexandra Maria Lara and Jason Flemyng (playing the playboy Guy Berger) were not very convincing while Natalie Dormer (playing Natalia’s roommate Olga) was quite good in comparison. Ahmed Ahmed (playing restaurant owner Nasser) and Javed Jaffery (playing Suresh Khan) didn’t have big enough roles to make any impact on the viewer while Habib Ghuloom (playing Faisal’s father) was quite poor in his single style of dialogue delivery but I suppose his role didn’t have anything else to offer either.

For a person who’s directing his first full length feature, Ali F. Mostafa did a fantastic job. I love the opening bicycle scene and the way he incorporated shots from old Dubai i.e. Satwa with the modern Dubai i.e. SZR road. I also like the way he included the various point of views and lifestyles i.e. covering the local, western and Asian. The story was well written though a little cliché but then that is Dubai in a lot of ways. The camera work in some places was a bit shaky but maybe that’s how they wanted it to be.

What I didn’t like about the movie was that it seemed to be just another thing out of the UAE that was trying to promote ‘Brand Dubai’. I know most movies do that when it comes to the locations they use and I’m being a little too critical about it but I just felt it could have been avoided in some areas.

As I stated, it was a nice night out. A movie I recommend to any person who’s lived in the UAE even if you might not be able to relate to any of the characters cause just watching Dubai on the big screen and trying to figure out the various locations is fun in its own way plus you get a good story to enjoy on the side….


  1. Anonymous says:

    AHAHAHA! So true! After seeing this movie FF and myself went to Jumairah and spotted the juice cafe in the movie (where the guy fights the fat dud's gang)

    Seeing places you know on screen is weird and fun.

    As for the father being off... I actually thought HE was the best actor out of the bunch. He IS my dad! To perfection! Not kidding. That monotone wise crap is what I come home to every day!

    Soud I HATE. Why? Simple, he's a pretty boy. He is a VERY VERY popular (with the girls) news caster on Dubai TV and Sama Dubai. And I hate him. Ust for bing a pretty boy that every girl wants to do. HATE!

    All in all this isnt the best movie ever made, but also didnt make me want to ask for my money back, and truthfully, 1/2 (exactly 505) of movies I see I think are trash, so thats saying something.

    THe ending I wasnt a fan of. I think, as Faisal's friend who dies said, if anything happened to him faisal would take care f him, and there was a sorta cute scene were his friend's sister is patching his wound up. So I expected them to get married at the end. It would have been a sweeter kind of ending I think. Some hope in the tragedy that was the death.

    Natalie acted her role VERY well. And guy.. lol. Im a firm believer that white people with 3 letter names (Guy, Ton, Jim, Jon...) need be shot. He was no exception.

    FF cried when faisal was holding his friend after the car crash! Muahahaha!

    I thought the many different asects of life in Dubai from many points of view were very very accurate. And was annoyed at some of them. Mostafa, as writer was doing one thing, story telling, and rather well. There was no "selling" of Dubai.

    Mostafa as Director, especially a young one, was amazing. Maybe it was the fact that his DP was amazing, I do not know, but if it was his direction, it was good, especially as you pointed out, this is his 1st feature.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Faisal does marry Khalfan's sister during the end, I think it was cut out but it will be included in the Director's Cut. There are many scenes that shouldn't have been edited off.

    Anyway, good review. I think this film is a great start for Gulf (specifically UAE) cinema, as it the first with high standards.

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