A Lebanese couple living in America clash over remaining in a foreign country and continuing their journey or moving back home in the short film Abroad.
Hollywood is never that far away from scandals. In the last year alone, there has been an uproar with sexual deviancy, the Oscars being “so white”, whitewashing for major roles and the gender salary gap. Abroad tackles another interesting and controversial subject, but it does so in a clever and engrossing manner.
Jad (Zayn Alexander) and Rania (Pascale Seigneurie) are a loving Lebanese couple trying to get by as actors in New York City. The struggle to gain roles and work is already difficult, but it is even more so for a couple who only get called to audition to play hijab-wearing terrorists. Whilst Rania is content with this and just wants to live out her dream of making it to Hollywood, Jad is not. His mother calls often in an attempt to convince him to return to Lebanon and live out a content life working for his father. This leads to a big argument between the couple and one that may result in their relationship dying out. One that even a marriage proposal may not save.
Directed by Zayn Alexander with Pascale Seigneurie on writing duties, Abroad is a smart nine-minute film. It looks at how actors from the Middle East (or those who have a certain Middle Eastern look) have been stereotyped in movies. It shows how, seemingly loving, couples can clash and how arguments can suddenly appear from out of nowhere. It shows the difference between how people want to live their lives; with being no closer to his goal, Jad wants to give up the dream and live a “normal” life with a salary, kids, marriage and a home, whilst Rania wants to continue and chase the ever elusive wish to make it as a star, with being financially secure not a priority.
I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed Abroad. There is nothing even remotely flashy about it. The camera work is basic, the production design is minimal and the audio is fine. What it does have going for it is an enthralling script which is performed by two very capable actors. In a world of full of overly-expensive special effects-driven movies which have little in terms of a story, we need more films like Abroad. It has heart, it has character and it has layers. For me, those ingredients make for a vastly more interesting experience.
Abroad will start its festival circuit journey in 2018 and we recommend catching it when it does so.