“Ghadi”: Tastefully Inspirational or Irrationally Optimistic?
Ghadi (2013), directed by Amin Dora, is the story of a father’s strategy to get the people in his small, Lebanon town to accept his only son with down syndrome before they follow through on their threats to kick him and his family out. Told from the point of view of Ghadi’s (Emmanuel Khairallah) father, Leba (Georges Khabbaz), Ghadi is a movie meant to tug at the heartstrings of its viewers. Leba’s blood, sweat and tears go into protecting his child’s name in the eyes of the townspeople who don’t believe that Ghadi brings them anything but bad luck and minor inconvenience. Writer Georges Khabbaz plays Leba himself and it is through his paternal character’s eyes that the audience gets to know Leba’s relationship with their neighbors.
The average number of stars on your standard movie-rating site (see IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes) offered to Ghadi is around 3–4. If I had to guess, these standard ratings were chosen because some aspects of Khabbaz’s writing felt much too good to be true.
Once word gets to Leba that he must do something to protect Ghadi’s name in order to defend their home and possible eviction from the town, he sets a plan in motion to convince his neighbors that his son is a heavenly angel sent to monitor their sins. This seems to work, and really never stops working. There are only about 1 or 2 skeptics throughout the film who are easily pacified in a matter of moments. In fact, aside from the initial conflict, not much exists at all aside from the accruing responsibility that Leba must tackle as his lies get out of hand. Somehow, though, he always seems to have it under control.
The story seems to paint Leba as this incredible hero, Ghadi’s saving grace. he knits the town back together, has a devoted bond with his wife and three children, and is on good terms with many of the locals. Those that don’t like him put up with him quite nicely, considering all the qualms they seem to have with Ghadi’s hollering from the window.
Ghadi was more revealing of the neighbors’ bad habits and their biggest fears than it was about Ghadi himself, who had little to no personality (never mind the lack of close-up shots). In his own story, he was more of a background character — a plot device to reveal the relationship of Leba and the townspeople and culture. This was of course, the intention, but I can’t say that it made this film a “win” for representation.
It makes me wonder, had the story been told from Ghadi himself, would we have learned more about the neighbors through his eyes? All that time spent looking out on the balcony… surely he’d been the fly on the wall for some interesting happenings in the neighborhood.
If I were to rate this film with attention to its disability representation, I’d give it a 3.5/5. I would have really liked to know more about what made Ghadi so special — especially because that’s what the entire premise of the film was based on. I have a sneaking suspicion that this had to do with Emmanuel Khairallah’s acting capabilities as well as rules and regulations regarding screentime and labor laws. We loved what little we saw, though!