With ‘Rags and Tatters’ Ahmed Abdallah has created one of the most important films around the revolution. It is a beautiful and genuine story of the marginalized, in search for identity and a sense of belonging, in the backdrop to the revolution.
It narrates the story of a nameless prisoner (Asser Yassin) who fled among many others, when one night during the early days of the revolution, the prisons were mysteriously opened. On his quest to reach home and deliver a promise he gave to his injured friend, he finds himself entangled in an estranged and harsh reality of the unfolding incidents.
Burdened with uncertainty and fear from being arrested or falling victim to random violent mobs as self-proclaimed neighborhood watch, he finds himself on the run. Wandering through the poorest neighborhoods we get a glimpse of the silent human stories of the marginalized and neglected. With documentary like inserts we are let into this parallel world, while random news bites set the chronological order of the ongoing confrontations on the other side of the city.
There is hardly any dialogue between the characters, while strong somber pictures try to explain themselves, creating a heavyhearted mood of uncertainty, anonymity and nothingness. The anonymity of the characters reflects their non-existence. The city’s largest cemetery, home to thousands of Egyptians, becomes a backdrop and simile of the living dead.
You instantly sympathize with this ‘Unknown Soldier’, one of many victims of this corrupted regime that systematically altered and perverted Egypt’s social fabric into vegetative state. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt and wonder if this were another place and time if his life would have taken another path. The infusion of sectarian tension is another twist into the harsh reality and social maladies of contemporary Egypt.
The anxiety and uncertainty towards the army now being in charge is hinted at with the appearance of a military police officer doing a random security check.
Asser Yassin masters this difficult role by skillfully utilizing his body language and eyes to convey the deeper meanings and establish the good soul of this man, without going over board. Rags and Tatters was screened at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2013 narrative competition and was recently awarded the Golden Antigone at the International Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier.