Varun Khanna’s Beyond Honor sheds a harsh light on the still-thriving practice of female genital mutilation, but the noblest of intentions aren’t nearly enough to save his film from its daytime TV amateurishness. Sahira (Ruth Osuna) is a Westernized Egyptian-American medical student still living in Southern California with her family, a devout Muslim unit composed of submissive Caucasian mom Noor (Laurel Melagrano), mean, masturbation-crazy brother Samir (Ryan Izay), and tyrannical father Mohammed (Wadie Andrawis). Virginal Sahira wears a headscarf and diligently prays five times a day as per her father’s demands, but as her romantic relationship with colleague Brian (Jason David Smith) begins to blossom and she starts to covertly rebel against the repressive ideology espoused by her maniacal paterfamilias, she finds herself increasingly vulnerable to a deadly backlash from those closest to her. Quite bluntly pillorying conservative Muslim culture and, specifically, the custom of vaginal abuse perpetrated against approximately two million women a year in Africa, the Middle East, and immigrant communities in Europe and the Americas, the writer-director makes no concessions to impartiality, delivering a fearsome—and at times fearless—censure of culturally entrenched misogyny. Yet as a dramatist, Khanna seems to have been raised on nothing but Afterschool Specials and soap operas, an impression left by nearly every facet of his clunky, preachy debut. Only breaking up the monotony of his bland head-on compositions with pointless crane shots that swoop from high to low, and with dialogue and scene construction defined by their unintentional hilarity (“So, are you going to do it with him tonight,” asks Sahira’s numbskull girlfriend), the director’s stewardship is so graceless that at times—such as Sahira’s inaugural toke on a joint, her incestuous plot to strike back against her tormentors, or any scene involving her caricature of a father or loopy, vengeance-promoting drama teacher (Carl Darchuck)—that the film feels like a cliché-ridden parody. That it isn’t remains readily apparent from its resolute refusal to shy away from the story’s most gruesome acts of violence. But righteous earnestness, alas, isn’t the same thing as elegance, and putting up with Khanna’s simplistic symbolism and Andrawis’s bug-eyed, spittle-spewing cartoon Islamofacist (“Fucking white people,” is a typical refrain from the fanatic, who villainously refers to America as “the land of the pussies”) is tedious beyond belief.
- 100 min
- Varun Khanna
- Varun Khanna
- Wadie Andrawis, Ina Barron, Carl Darchuck, Albert Fam, Ryan Izay, Laurel Melagrano, Jason Smith, Ruth Osuna, Ajay Vidure
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