American film revives Italian neo-realism
CAIRO: Beyond the polished skyscrapers of Manhattan, the glamour of Broadway and the capitalist empire of Wall Street, stories from other side of the city ? poverty, filth and the broken dreams of marginalized immigrants ? slowly comes into focus.
Man Push Cart is one such story about an immigrant’s bleak existence in the city that has lost its tenderness.
The low-budgeted film revolves around Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), a former Pakistani rock star who left his homeland to move with his wife in New York. We don t know the exact details of why or when he came to the US or how he was transformed from a major celebrity in Pakistan (the Bono of Lahore as one character calls him) to a man who sells coffee, tea and bagels via his rented cart.
We learn later on that his wife has passed away a year ago. His in-laws blame him for the death of his wife and wouldn t allow him to see his son. He has a stoic face with eyes worn out with sadness and the meaningless of his life. He rarely complains and he receives all humiliations targeted against him with jaded indifference.
He meets a lovely young Spanish woman Noemi (Leticia Dolera) who temporally manages her uncle s newsstand. They form a beautiful friendship that never blossoms into actual romance. This is New York after all and in New York, men like Ahmad don t possess enough opulence to develop this type of relationship with girls like Noemi.
He meets up with another rich Pakistani living in Manhattan; the successful wealthy man recognizes him and promises to help him resuscitate his music career. But we know he won t because in real life, strangers don t stick to their promises.
The film s director s Ramin Bahrani, an American born in Iran, is undoubtedly influenced by the Italian neo-realism movement of the late 40s and early 50s. Man Push Cart is similar, in its own unique way, to Vittorio De Sica s The Bicycle Thief in its tone, lack of forced sentiment and the film s final act.
Bahrani watches Ahmed s life from afar; he s like a peeping tom who, with his camera, spies on Ahmed without making any judgments, explaining his desolation or provide us with more insight than what we re seeing.
Man Push Cart is not interested in making any political or social statement; it s a film about a particular man, living in a particular city and leading a very particular unkind life. The film is also not depressing or discouraging; it s a completely distinctive tiny experience of life as it is.
The movie is based on Albert Camus The Myth of Sisyphus in which a man pushes a rock to the top of the mountain to see it fall, go down and push it up again and again. Ahmed keeps on pushing his cart every morning; he hates his job but he can t seem to find any other practicable way out and he just has to keeping pushing it.
Life s pretty meaningless most of the time and we always believe that someday, somewhere, it ll finally smile for us. The fact of the matter is that it rarely does; but just like Ahmad, we just to have to keep pushing that cart.