Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran was co-adapted by the director and the novelist Emmanuel Schmidt from his own novel. The film is a memoir of a boy growing up in the mid-50s in Paris. He has an unfortunate family but finds a surrogate father in the Arab who owns the grocery store across the street.
Omar Sharif, who received a Lifetime Award at Venice Film Festival in 2003 with the screening of this film, shows what an extraordinary impact he has had on the screen from the time that he rode in on the camel in Lawrence of Arabia, became Dr Zhivago and appeared in so many films over a period spanning more than forty years. In this film he is full of life, charm as well as great dignity.
Ibrahim explains that he is from the Golden Crescent rather from an Arab, although this is how French people of the time saw him. He has a great love for the boy, eventually adopting him and taking him on a journey back to his own past. The film is very strong (even voicing it at some stages) that love, culture and faith are caught rather than taught. This Jewish boy, who knows very little about his own religion, is so influenced by the humanity of the Muslim that he makes his nickname Momo, not an abbreviation of Moses, which it is, but of Mohammed. Pierre Boullanger is excellent as the boy who is coming of age, is preoccupied with sex, eyes the prostitutes on the street in which he lives in Paris, yet learns from Ibrahim greater maturity in knowing himself, relationships, finding his identity and finding a future. It is a humane film which respects all peoples, all cultures, all religions. The director Francois Dupeyran made the very effective film about the war wounded in 1914-18, The Officers' Chambers.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.