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A New Day in Old Sana'a
A New Day in Old Sana'a
Actors: Nabil Saber, Julia Towns, Dania Hammoud, Redha Khoder, Paolo Romano
Director: Bader Ben Hirsi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Music Video & Concerts
UR     2008     1hr 30min

In this achingly romantic tale, handsome young Tariq is about to marry Bilquis, eldest daughter of a prominent and powerful judge. But as he wanders the ancient city of Sana'a late one night, he spots a beautiful young wo...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Nabil Saber, Julia Towns, Dania Hammoud, Redha Khoder, Paolo Romano
Director: Bader Ben Hirsi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Music Video & Concerts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Love & Romance, International
Studio: Typecast Pictures
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/22/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Arabic

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Movie Reviews

Definitely charming, magically captivating and an extremely
Ishraq Yacoub | Canada | 10/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A daunting task with a haunting ending - that is the story behind the first Yemeni movie ever made: "A New Day in Old Sana'a". The director, Bader Ben Hirsi, faced numerous challenges such as financial limitations, and a lot more which crippled his beloved project, luckily, the director's vision persevered and this beautiful movie was created.

"A New Day in Old Sana'a" is a romantic comedy/drama and it revolves around a wealthy Yemeni groom who falls in love with a woman he mistakenly thinks is his aristocratic bride. In a strange twist of events, she turns out to be a poor woman of a humble background, and the groom faces the conflict between his heart and jeopardizing his family's honor if they dishonored the marriage commitment to his real bride's family (a very serious matter in Yemen). Not only did the director communicate with exotic and meaningful imagery, set in the enchanting old city of Sana'a, (which was built before the 11th century and one of the World Heritage sites recognized by UNESCO) but he also skillfully displayed the characters' warmth, wit and exposed their vulnerabilities, adding to the spellbinding nature of this movie, which eventually leads to a somewhat unrelenting ending. When you watch this movie, be prepared to laugh, to be emotionally moved, visually mesmerized and ready to go on a trip to a unique place that do exist in the real world but that is occupied with too familiar conflicts.

As with any project that attempts to introduce new and unfamiliar ideas, one could expect resistance. But the degree to which it crippled this project almost drove Hirsi to give up on it. In addition to the normal pressures, Hirsi felt the overwhelming responsibility of knowing that his movie could either open the door for more Yemeni movies or permanently close it. Even after completing it, there was the difficulty in distributing the movie internationally. Some of the distributors were disappointed because the movie didn't fit their notion of what an Arabic movie should be about, as this movie was about a love story, which didn't fit the distributors' stereotypical mold.

All the media coverage about this movie was more than encouraging and it was notably received by both audiences and critics, despite the fact that it was not widely released theatrically. The movie was previewed at several international film festivals including Cannes Film Festival and it won the Best Arab Film Award at the 2005 Cairo International Film Festival.
Not well done, but Yemeni
Jedidiah Palosaari | Fes, Morocco | 02/09/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If this movie had been produced in the US, it would be deserving of one star. It feels like two rather disjointed movies: one with an Italian musing in English in a stereotypical Western Orientalist manner, and the other the daily life of the Yemeni of Sana'a, the capitol city. The former is irrelevant, and it would have been a better movie to focus on the lives of the Yemeni, without the track of the Italian's thoughts. He commits the most egregious cultural mistakes and breaks the most basic taboos, all the while sharing with us that he knew it was wrong but couldn't help himself. He's basically your stereotypical rude Westerner, and yet the film finds no fault in him, for he provides our omniscient viewpoint that we as Westerners are supposed to identify with.

Sadly, the Yemeni life portions of the movie are badly acted, or at least about what you'd find in a bad Arab sitcom. (There are certainly good Arab sitcoms, like Lalla Fatima of Morocco. This is not one of them.) Most were not trained actors, and it shows, with wooden dialogue and even more wooden presentation. The humor, near constant in the Arab dialogue, is the equivalent of what passed for humor on American TV in the 40s, when they were still fascinated by the concept of television.

And this is exactly why I rate this movie so high. There has never, ever, been a feature film out of Yemen. Most of the actors are Yemeni. There is literally no other movie out there that shows the amazing beauty of Sana'a, the Gingerbread City, so well, nor one that displays so accurately Yemeni dialect and culture. There are great insights here into marriage customs, gender dynamics, and most especially the all present 'ib, or shame. There is certainly nothing so accessible to English-speaking audience, as large portions of this movie are in English, and the rest with subtitles.

I would hope that forty years from now, this movie is looked on as very primitive, because the Yemeni film industry has grown into a burgeoning industry. At the moment, it is a groundbreaking work. If you love Yemen, or want to learn to love it, this is the film to see. And don't forget to watch the stinger after the credits are over."
Liked it overall, though disagree on some aspects
Ahmed A. Hamidalddin | 09/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First of all, this is not your highly 'cinematic' movie, but rather a more 'theatrical' film. You should try to deeply sink into the story, the scenes, and the characters to understand this; although it does have well crafted visual elements at times as well.
This is a good (at the very least) product showing many aspects of Yemen. Not sure where to stand with the addition of the Italian character/narrator (rest assured, all other characters are Yemeni, except one). But after all, this is an internationally-aimed film.
The first full-feature Yemeni film, and it's not even aimed towards the Arab-film audience! The star of this all is Bader Ben Hirsi. The great direction of Bader shows immense experience. Timing of comic elements was perfected, and would please all nationalities. On the other hand, dramatic build-up is top-notch. Don't forget, these are not experienced, nor even trained, actors.
This is a story with realistic elements drawn from culture (The film shows several picturesques of Yemen). This imposes challenges on the story characters. It has a very not-so-happy ending. I consider it the best way to end. This is a film for the whole family to watch."
Definitely check this one out.
J. Dykstra | Roswell, NM | 03/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Yemen is one of those places that has been in the news lately but about which very few people know much. The country is famous for its ancient architecture and old customs, both of which are on brilliant display in this film. We watch Arabic movies one day a week in my Arabic class and my students definitely thought this was one of the best we've seen so far. I would point out three reasons for seeing this movie. First of all, the scenery is spectacular. The setting of the film is old Sana', of course, and the architecture actually plays a part in the film as the narrator of the story is a photographer who is there to take pictures of the buildings and people. This movie transports you to a different world where everything from the clothes to the houses seem exotic. Second, due to the somewhat amateur status of some of the actors, the movie has a bit more of a feel of real life. You get to see the social posturing of the different classes of people and the heartfelt emotion they experience. Third, if you are interested in the Arabic language, the spoken Arabic in this film, while being a unique dialect, is quite understandable compared to many movies that are available.

This movie is a twist on the age-old tale of star-crossed lovers from different social classes that find many obstacles preventing them from getting together. While the plot might not be quite as slick and well-developed as a Hollywood movie, it is enjoyable nonetheless and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. This is supposedly the first and only major Yemeni film to make it big on the international scene. It's definitely worth checking out."