Grandma, a Thousand Times


From her rundown balcony a few flights above the streets of old Beirut, illiterate but sharp-tongued octogenarian Teta Fatima observes the bustle, haggles with vendors over the price of potatoes (ultimately making transactions via bucket and rope), and habitually drinks coffee while smoking an arguileh (hookah). She might not be our kin, but filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour’s anecdotal, warm-humored tribute to his grandmother—and, to a limited extent, to her cultural heritage—taps into the universal desire to hang onto loved ones in their waning years. “Stop reminding me of my husband, you are going to bring tears to my eyes. Damn you,” Teta tells her grandson, a spitting image of her late violinist husband, whose previously unreleased noodling haunts the soundtrack. With some irreverence (Kaabour comically stages Teta’s deathbed), this pithy portrait sidesteps sentimental clichés through tough love and modest stylization (photos and re-enactments from Teta’s past projected on the wall behind her couch). It’s at least enough to inspire a phone call to your own grandparents.