Review: Blessed Benefit (2016)


Blessed Benefit (2016)

Directed by: Mahmoud al-Massad | 83 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Ahmad Thaher, Maher Khammash, Odai Hijazi, Mahmoud al Massad, Nadim Remawi, Yasmine Mustafa

What makes the prison film genre so appealing? Undoubtedly, whole studies have already been done to answer that question, but with a little common sense you can get there. To begin with, a prison is a society on a micro level, where social relationships and contradictions are clear and orderly. For lovers of action movies, the prison film is a place of brawls, spectacular escapes and the hard battle between guard and prisoner. The lover of women’s prison films again has its own pleasures, including the always disappointing shower fight.

The Jordanian film ‘Blessed Benefit’ is a prison comedy in which the prison functions as a micro-society. The main character is Ahmad, a fifty-something who looks like a downtrodden classical language teacher, but in real life earns his money as a contractor. When Ahmad finds himself in prison for a minor case of fraud, he soon finds that the world inside the prison walls is just as corrupt as the world outside. His only hope is Abu Wafa, a cousin who is desperate for money to pay the deposit.

‘Blessed Benefit’ takes place for the most part within the prison walls. There we meet the types that we always meet in prison films. A chief prisoner to whom everyone owes obedience. A hustler trying to sell his business. A psychopath you’d rather not have as an enemy. Because ‘Blessed Benefit’ is primarily a comedy, the sharp edges of these characters have been smoothed out. Everyone is having a good time with each other, and the couple quarrels are resolved in no time.

Despite ‘Blessed Benefit’ being a comedy, the undertones are serious enough. The film tells something about a society where every social and societal layer is steeped in corruption and petty crime. Citizens, agents, lawyers, everyone participates in the great feast of corruption and fraud. Agents confiscate stolen goods, citizens illegally tap electricity and lawyers collect their fees and do nothing else.

‘Blessed Benefit’ is an easy-going comedy with a sombre message, as a film especially suitable for people who like Arab arthouse. The same dry, sometimes sad humor, the same barren landscape, the same poverty, the same fatalism. Not very original, also in terms of humor. Nice to see once, not a disaster to pass up.

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