Tarek (Les Chantery), a young panel beater, lives at home with his parents and little sister. His close friend Nabil (Buddy Dannoun) works in his family contract cleaning business. Sam (Waddah Sari), his hot-headed mate, tries to make a name for himself on the street. Nabil offers his friend "in" on a heist that could set them up for life. Tarek is intrigued but he's not a criminal and his family already has one son in jail, his older brother, Jamal (Bren Foster). Then temptation starts to get the better of him. Tarek dreams of owning his own workshop and living in a better area. His brother's appeal has also stalled for lack of funds. And then there's Amie (Rachael Taylor), the hot eastern suburbs girl he's just met. She's part of another world; exclusive, privileged and out of reach. It's where he wants to be. Tarek and Nabil decide to take a chance.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Debuting filmmaker Serhat Caradee has something very definite to say with Cedar Boys. "What initially drew me to this story was a desire to paint a picture of what it's like to be Lebanese in Australia during these sensitive times. I wanted to show how easily young Middle Eastern boys fall into crime: how they are constantly exposed to it, how they are presented with attractive criminal roles models, and how crime can appear to offer the only path to fulfilment and success." Caradee has succeeded completely in his mission, in what is a powerful and gripping story, told with flair and cinematic skill. It's a story with a very clear life saving message for the young Lebanese men who - hopefully - will be drawn to see the film.
The performances from Caradee's hand picked cast is flawless, from Les Chantery's tragic young Tarek to his buddy Nabil played with great presence by Buddy Dannoun and Bren Foster as Tarek's jailed brother Jamal. The supporting cast of Rachael Taylor as the glamorous but flawed Amie and Waddah Sari as the volatile Sam who is part of the Tarek/Nabil team, are also outstanding as are Martin Henderson and Daniel Amalm as a couple of tough guys on the hunt for Tarek and Nabil.
Caradee's screenplay creates character through action and the graphic language of the street seems to have been transcribed from real life. The social context in which the story is told gives the film an added urgency and extra bite. It's a formidable debut.
Review by Louise Keller:
Serhat Caradee's feature debut is as impressive and solid as its symbolic title implies. First and foremost, Cedar Boys is terrific storytelling as it engrosses us in a claustrophobic bubble of a Lebanese reality in Sydney's West. It's a tough world as dreams compete with discrimination and possibilities leap through the cracks like temptations coated with dynamite. Tension holds us captive as Caradee leads us through the narrative with his likeable protagonist Tarek (Les Chantery) and well meaning but misguided decisions where there is no safety net.
Tension is introduced like a character from the very first frame. Three men enter a lift. We look closely at each of their faces. They reach the floor of their destination, walk down the corridor and knock on a door. There's a gun tucked away... That's when the clock ticks back three months, when an explosive metal instrument of another kind is being used in a smash repairs shop. This is the workplace of hardworking Tarek, Western Suburbs panel beater, who lives with his close knit family, and who longs to meet a girl outside his Lebanese world. He wears loyalty like a badge and shows he has a conscience as one decision takes him down a dead end road with no return.
Performances are all superb with Chantery (as Tarek) and Buddy Dannoun (as Nabil) standouts. Special mention also to Bren Foster as Tarek's jailed brother (that scene where the brothers pour out their hearts to each other through the dividing pane of glass is overtly moving) and to Martin Henderson who delivers an eerily, chilling performance as the thug with the tattoo on his hand. Waddah Sari as the ambitious Sam is also excellent, and Caradee puts himself into the action, as Zac.
There are two types of drug dealers: one does it for the money, the other for an image. We know Tarek's decisions are all coloured by those wads of dollar notes hidden away in his drawer. We are there throughout his journey, including his involvement with the fun-loving, pill-popping Amie (Rachael Taylor), which symbolizes his wish for acceptance beyond his culture. One problem leads to another and soon the problems have snowballed into unmanageable proportions before the unravelling begins. The lead up to the climactic ending is taut and I could almost hear my heart beating. Without a doubt, Caradee comes up with the perfect ending that encapsulates the essence of the tale he is telling - morals and all. I found his dedication, as the credits roll, heartbreaking.
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SERHAT CARADEE INTERVIEW
CEDAR BOYS (MA)
CAST: Les Chantery, Buddy Dannoun, Waddah Sari, Rachael Taylor, Martin Henderson, Daniel Amalm, Jake Wall, Erica Lovell, Hani Malik, Ben Foster, Helen Chebatte, Lucy Abroon, Taffy Hany
PRODUCER: Jeff Purser, Ranko Markovic, Matthew Dabner
DIRECTOR: Serhat Caradee
SCRIPT: Serhat Caradee
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter A. Holland
EDITOR: Suresh Ayyar
MUSIC: Khaled Sabsabi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Claire Granville
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Mushroom Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 30, 2009