Based on the inspiring true story of Mohammad Assaf, winner of Arab Idol, The Idol is two-time Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s newest feature.
Mohammad grew up in the Gaza Strip and while the conflict torn zone is one of the toughest places to be a child, he and his tomboy sister Nour managed to make the most out of it. The two of them and their friends formed a band and performed at weddings even though they were way too young for it. It was his amazing voice that allowed them to get events to perform to, his talent truly knowing no boundaries. Later on as he grew older, Mohammad saw a chance to take a shot at stardom by trying his luck at Arab Idol in Egypt. No passport, a closed border and no audition ticket, yet not only did he get to sing from the show’s sparkling stage, but he ultimately won it, sweeping a whole nation off its feet and giving them new hope for a brighter future.
The incredible and almost unbelievable true story of Mohammad works great as a film and especially so under the directing of Hany Abu-Assad. The young actors are adorable as little Mohammad and his friends and it is a real joy to see them perform, resulting in watching the harshest bits of their childhood all the more sad. Both Qais Atallah (young Mohammad) and Hiba Atallah (Nour) are absolutely excellent and delightful to watch, and even though they are only there for the first half of the film, they are its most memorable characters. The plot moves pretty fast, making for a great watch as it mixes humour with drama effortlessly.
The Idol does for Pop Idol what Slumdog Millionaire did for Who Wants to be a Millionaire? – it takes an internationally well-known show and puts it in a new context, having as a backdrop a country where those shows mean something more than just Friday night entertainment. Above all, the film gives Mohammad an even bigger stage to tell his story from as it needs to reach more than just the people of his own region. A truly brave person, Mohammad managed to show his Palestine how to find its voice, inspiring the whole nation to dream again – now he is reaching even further, a voice with no boundaries.
The Idol is released nationwide on 12th October 2015. It is part of the Galas competition in the 59th London Film Festival.