Cinemas in the Gulf States were packed at the beginning of September for the latest Kuwaiti superhero film, Ash Man: a family comedy with zany overtones and lots of punch! A production full of twists and turns that delighted the audience and caused a small triumph.
A superhero like no other
While the superheroes we are used to watching are often young, single men with dreamy physiques who fight evil without breaking a sweat, we find Bachar as Ash Man, a father of two daughters in his forties with a large belly. He argues with his wife, takes his daughters to their extracurricular activities, works in a ministry, and has an absolutely ordinary life.
The source of his powers is not due to a radioactive insect that has inadvertently bitten him, or a magic stone, but is due to a popular dish in Kuwait called ash, a soup made of red beans, lentils, chickpeas and other oriental spices, which has been altered by a scientist’s strange mixture.
A main character and a superhero funnier than the average then, and more endearing as he is more relatable. The character of Bachar himself already provides the comic element.
With his new magical powers granted by the Ash soup, Bachar, now Ash Man, is endowed with supernatural strength, the gift of mastering electricity and of course, the ability to fly!
A major breakthrough in Kuwait
Several elements of both form and content make Ash Man an unusual film in Kuwaiti productions, and have made it an unquestionable success.
In terms of content, our superhero is closer to an anti-hero, as explained earlier: he does not have the main and common characteristics of the classic the American superhero, which gives the story a completely different tone.
On the other hand, the film’s main audience is family, which is very well executed: indeed, the humour is very well directed towards the consequent audience, as there are several levels of understanding.
On the form, one can simply mention that sci-fi is not a popular genre produced by Kuwaiti cinema: the latest known works are few and quite old. The decision to bounce back to this genre was therefore a challenge, which was successfully overcome.
Also, although the American spirit is still quite marked (in the speeches, or the portraits of the villains…), we feel a real will to break the codes and stereotypes concerning the Gulf countries, and especially the will to integrate culture and heritage in the heart of the scenario: for example, one of the hero’s weapons is a “habban“, which is a kind of traditional bagpipe.
A good progress for Kuwaiti cinema, which will perhaps reveal itself even more in the future.