Abu, Son of Adam FL, 2011, 3 stars

Painful pilgrimage

From The Orlando Weekly, October 3, 2012

Film is such a youth-centric art that we often forget the power and perspective of older generations’ stories. In the Malayalam-language Abu, Son of Adam, first-time writer/director Salim Ahamed harnesses that power by weaving the tale of a poor, elderly Indian couple’s quest to visit Mecca in the annual Hajj pilgrimage. It’s the life dream of so many Muslims, yet it’s virtually absent from Western cinema.

To make the journey, Abu (Salim Kumar) and his wife Aisu (Zarina Wahab) must raise money not by accepting charity, which is religiously forbidden, but by selling their cherished possessions, including their prized jackfruit tree, for timber. But when the tree is discovered to be hollow, not only do their Hajj hopes suffer a setback, but their entire life, including their estrangement from their son, is condensed into one heartbreaking, metaphorical truth: “There are some children – we nurture them,” Abu explains, “[but] only when they are grown up, we realize their inside is hollow.”

Some bad audio post dubbing and poor subtitles make Abu a tough watch, but a heartbreaking performance by Kumar and a sweet, if overly sentimental, style make this a strong choice for any Asian film festival.

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