Sabah Ruba Nadda

Or, My Big Fat Secret Arab Romance on Degrassi Street. Arsinee Khanjian assays the title role of a 40-year-old Muslim woman who's remained unmarried while taking care of her sick mother and ministering to her family without protest. All that changes when she sneaks out for a swim and falls in love with hunky Stephen (Shawn Doyle), who, as a divorced Canadian, isn't remotely acceptable. She tries to hide the relationship, using her racy 18-year-old sister to cover her tracks, but she knows the day of reckoning is at hand. Sadly, the film is as tentative and cautious as its title character. Writer/director Ruba Nadda seems to have discovered filmmaking just like Sabah has discovered her passion: suddenly and without immediate comprehension. Though she gets points for a colour scheme that defies Canada's icy-blue house style, she's still one of those people who parks the camera outside the action and never cuts in. Thus, many of her exchanges die in a hail of awkward pauses that can't be removed, while her unsure compositions do nothing to compel the viewer's interest. It's not terrible, but it's flat and uninspired — a familiar and necessary cross-cultural song that I wish someone would learn to sing better. Though its vivid and opinionated Muslim women are one hell of a stereotype buster, the characters themselves are rendered in cutesy shorthand that blow their credibility and are satiated with a wildly implausible wrap up that comes straight out of TV movies. As it stands, Sabah barely rises above the "wait for the video" or even the "stumble upon it on cable" mark. Extras include a commentary with Nadda, Khanjian, and cinematographer Luc Montpellier that's joke-y and unimpressive, a bashful "behind the scenes" video diary and three of Nadda's short films that take interesting concepts and fumble their execution. (Mongrel Media)