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Pushing For Peace
"Monsieur Ibrahim's') Omar Sharif stands up for
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May 21, 2004
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I is been 36 years since Omar
Sharif, playing Fanny Brice's suit-
or in Funny Girl, enraged the
Arab press by kissing Barbra
Now, Sharif gives another delectable
performance opposite a Jewish character,
in the resonant coming-of-age story .
Playing a Turkish shopkeeper who
becomes a surrogate father to a preco-
cious adolescent in early 1960s Paris,
Sharif, 71, is unlikely to engender the
same wrath — even though it's impossi-
ble not to view the film through the
prism of current Arab-Israeli relations.
"I don't think [the film] is political,"
Sharif maintained during a recent pub-
licity stop in San Francisco. "If there
were peace now between Israel and the
Palestinians, it wouldn't matter [that the
boy is Jewish and the man is Muslim]. It
would be irrelevant. But what makes it
relevant is the fact that there is this terri-
ble situation there, and all this hatred
Sharif was born in Alexandria, Egypt,
and appeared in numerous Egyptian
films before his international break-
through (and Oscar nomination for Best
Supporting Actor) in Lawrence of Arabia.
His leading-man looks were also show-
cased in the high-profile 1960s films Dr.
Pierre Boulanger and Omar
Shari f in 'Monsieur Ibrahim"
Wise "Ibrahim" crosses cultures, generations and religions.
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onsieur Ibrahim starts out,
like countless -coming-of-
age movies before it,
as an affectionately nostal-
gic, slightly risque chroni-
cle of an adolescent boy's
A precocious Jewish lad living with
his aloof father in a working-class
Paris neighborhood in the early
1960s, Momo (Pierre Boulanger)
seemingly has nothing on his mind
except losing his virginity.
But, in this beautifully acted and
profoundly resonant French film, we
are gradually carried with Momo into
deeper waters as events unfold. With
uncommon grace and a lack of
dogma, Monsieur Ibrahim persuasive-
ly makes the case that the distance
between people of disparate back-
grounds and ages is an illusion.
The unexpected agent of change in
Momo's life is a graying, soft-spoken
Muslim named Ibrahim (Oma-:
Shard), who runs the cramped shop
where the boy buys— and shoplifts
Momo has no problem jus-
tifying his petty thefts. Fof
starters, every franc he saves
from the money his dad allots for
food shopping gets him closer to pay-
ing for one of the prostitutes who ply
their trade on the block.
Second, he doesn't see the shop-
keeper as a person but as "the other"
— a foreigner with strange rituals
and customs who has no life beyond
the long hours he spends in the store.
Momo's a little like the young
Duddy Kravitz, a handsome hustler
who's always working the angles and
thinks he's a lot smarter than he is.
He doesn't fool us and he doesn't fool
Ibrahim, who sees every pocketed