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The Idol 

Wednesday, May 25 2016
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Dumb stupid reality, getting in the way of excellent movie characters! It's no doubt the way it happened in real life, but it's heartbreaking on multiple levels when the protagonist's spitfire of a younger sister, Nour (Hiba Attalah) dies of kidney failure toward the end of the first act of Hany Abu-Assad's biopic The Idol.The picture is the story of how Mohammed Assaf (Kais Attalah as a child, Tawfeek Barhom as an adult) became a folk hero in 2013 as the winner of the Cairo-based Arab Idol, in spite of being a Palestinian not allowed to travel from the bombed-out Gaza to Egypt in the first place. Nour was the golden-voiced Mohammed's biggest booster as kids, and her memory drives him to make the treacherous journey across the border, the most compelling part of the film. Her absence is almost made up for by the casting of the wiry Barhoom, who lacks the bland handsomeness of the real-life Assaf and instead has an old-soul weariness that suits the character. Assaf's 2013 Arab Idol victory occurred around the time the campaign in this week's Weiner began, and both are recent period pieces about how the media can influence politics, for good and ill. The Idol ends on a far more hopeful note, to put it mildly.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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