From A to B
This was the official website of the 2014 UAE film, From A to B. Content is from the site's 2015 archived pages as well as from other review sources.
The year is 2011 and Omar (Rifaai) finds himself still racked with guilt over the death of his best friend Hady, who passed away five years ago. Now, just days away from the birth of his first child, he decides to take the road trip they never got to take...much to the dismay of his very pregnant wife.
Omar reaches out to his estranged high school friends Jay (Albutairi) and Ramy (Alfons) who have lost touch since Hady’s death to take the road trip in his memory.
Jay, now a playboy/ wannabe DJ, and Ramy, an #activist (with 737 twitter followers!), take some convincing, but finally agree to the trip. The boys decide to drive from Abu Dhabi – via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to arrive in Beirut, on what would have been Hady’s twenty-fifth birthday.
Their journey is filled with speedbumps - breakdowns, wrong turns, shady mechanics and a camel or two. If all of this doesn’t drive them crazy, it might just bring them closer
Fahad Albutairi 'Jay' Yousef
Fahad Albutairi was born in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Albutairi began performing stand-up comedy as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 2007. His first material dealt with his identity as a Saudi foreign student studying in post-9/11 America. He considers his real start to have been at the open mic nights at the Cap City Comedy Club in Austin.
Shadi Alfons Ramy
Egyptian comedy writer Shadi started his career as a copywriter for an advertising agency after graduating from the American University in Cairo with a degree in Performing Visual Arts. During this time, Shadi freelanced as a voice over artist and actor for a number of regional commercials for various brands including Pepsi, Vodafone, Nokia and Pfizer.
Fadi Rifaai Omar
Twenty two year old Fadi, was a practicing Civil Engineer before professionally pursuing his dream career as an actor. As a student of the American University of Sharjah, Fadi was a member of the Performing Arts Department, where he received three years of theatrical education by American Director Anthony Tassa.
Khaled Abol Naga Actor
Film Reviews: ‘From A to B’
NOVEMBER 5, 2014 | Variety
A formulaic road movie with sporadically amusing moments that lacks a defining visual style.
The formulaic qualities of the road movie are on display in “From A to B,” a sporadically amusing buddy pic that hits all the expected buttons. In his sophomore feature, helmer Ali F. Mostafa (“City of Life”) appears to be searching for a signature style, resulting in a visually uninteresting, narratively choppy film that would work better as a Web series, where various episodes could stand alone rather than be forced to sustain an entire movie. The plot, about three friends living in Abu Dhabi driving to Beirut, certainly has potential, and local play is likely to be strong, yet beyond A and B lies the empty quarter.
People familiar with the UAE’s privileged international lifestyle, heavily influenced by American consumerism and pop culture, will see much they recognize. P.E. instructor Omar (Fadi Rifaai) is in crisis: His wife, Arwa (Yosra El Lozy), is heavily pregnant, and he reflects on his less responsible past when he, Ramy (Shadi Alfons) and Yousef (standup comic Fahad Al Butairi) were best buds. In 2006, their mate Hady was killed during the 2006 Lebanon War, and Omar looks to heal the rift that drove the friends apart following the funeral. What better way than a road trip to Beirut, timed to coincide with New Year’s and Hady’s birthday?
Egyptian Ramy fancies himself an online activist, but is really a mama’s boy who tweets about social justice from the comforts of home. Yousef, rechristened Jay, is a half-Saudi, half-Irish DJ who can laze about knowing his father will pick up the bills, and Omar is the estranged son of the Syrian ambassador. All three share a lack of ambition and an ulterior motive for going to Beirut.
Their first stop is Saudi Arabia, where they get arrested after cops spy them in what appears to be compromising positions at their desert campsite. In Jordan, Yousef is attracted to Samantha (Madeline Zima), driving to Petra with a friend, but in one of the funnier plot twists, things don’t work out.
Omar discovers that Syrian hotel waitress Shadya (Leem Lubany) was Hady’s last g.f.; when her hometown of Daraa gets bombed by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, he convinces his pals they need to detour and take her there. Soon after crossing the border, they get pulled over by a couple of cops (cameos by stars Ali Suleiman and Khaled Abol Naga), who themselves want out. Then they’re kidnapped by a rebel commander (Samer Al Masry), and wake up to the horrors of the country’s civil war.
Mostafa and his scripters aim to give the generic features of the genre a little more specificity than usual, but the whole has a hybrid quality that only fitfully translates into anything genuinely funny. The pic has a few laughs, a few serious moments and the usual male bonding, but scenes often lack energy, and there’s little sense of flow between them. Michel Dierickx’s lensing is uniformly flat, and the Syrian sequences, which should offer a sobering, transformative counterpoint to the earlier lightheartedness, are so discreet that the desired emotional slap is neutered.
Song selections cover a range of the best Arab talent, from Lebanon’s Mashrou’ Leila and Yasmine Hamdan to Jordan’s JadaL, Algeria’s Souad Massi and Egypt’s Amr Diab, but their insertion into the soundtrack is clipped and clunky. Sound mix is problematic.
'From A to B': Abu Dhabi Review
11/18/2014 by Deborah Young
A road movie through the Arab world boasts hosts of young Middle East stars
Though Westerners may not get all the jokes, even they will laugh at the familiar-looking silliness of the exotic road movie From A to B, the second feature from British-Emirati director Ali Mostafa (City of Life.) Born to a life of outrageous privilege, three high school buddies from Abu Dhabi traverse the perilous deserts of the UAE, Saudia Arabia, Jordan and Syria to visit a friend’s grave in Beirut. Spiced with strong language, sex gags and even — gasp — two hot girl tourists whose origin is a shock, the film flirts with taboos while prudently remaining on this side of the red line. It strongly connected with local audiences on its festival bow in Abu Dhabi and even more so in Cairo, making its January release throughout the Mideast look rosy.
The story is set in 2011, during the Arab Spring but before the escalation of ISIS and the war in Syria, making the trip tough but not inconceivable. Young basketball hero Hady was killed five years earlier during air raids on Lebanon, a trauma his best pals can’t forget. They include aspiring DJ Yousef (Fahad Al-Butairi, a noted stand-up comic), the bald and bearded Ramy (Shadi Alfons) and especially the married Omar (Fadi Al-Rifai), who was so upset by Hady’s death he couldn’t bring himself to attend the funeral. Though the screenplay dwells at length on the tragedy’s aftershocks, it’s a weak excuse to set the boys in motion on a four-day car trip to Beirut to work out their past. Chalk it up to Mideast male bonding, perhaps, but the premise is as overloaded as their late-model Range Rover. While it’s plausible that Ramy would leave his cloying mom and pet hamster behind, how could the serious-minded Omar abandon a heavily pregnant wife who needs him, to patch up bygones with the boys?
Though the three young actors don’t exude a lot of onscreen charisma, horsing around together they generate some chemistry, and each character is at least clearly delineated. This is aided by the fact that none of them are native-born Emiratis. The tall Yousef, who is supposed to be half-Saudi and half-Irish, develops a fatal attraction to a leggy tourist (Madeline Zima), presuming she’s American in one of the film’s best jokes. Ramy is Egyptian and a flighty political blogger who tapes himself spouting off on the Arab Spring from the safety of his bedroom. Omar, the estranged son of a Syrian diplomat loyal to Assad’s regime, adds a serious note when he befriends a Syrian girl and insists on driving her to her town that has just been bombed. A dangerous encounter with two policemen (Khaled Abol Naga and Ali Suliman) and later with local militia (Samer Al Masry as the rebel commander) should have taken the story to a dark turning point, but instead these scenes are lightened with laughs and bounce off harmlessly, allowing the story to end on an upbeat note of no great consequence.
Bright sunlight and burning sands give the visuals a flat, monotonous look. There are snatches of catchy songs but no concerted use of music to direct the story.