On the Sunday morning that marks the first day of Eid, we made our way between the crowds half-awake like any passionate early bird would. All our efforts to avoid the Eid buzz and attend the 10:00 AM screening had failed when we found human troops invading the land. We’d almost lost hope of finding tickets being number 76 in line. The irony lies in the fact that we ended up being absolutely alone in a screening room, because apparently the overpopulation was taking place in the neighboring Mohamed Ramadan territory. And because in complete peace we made it to Al-Aslyeen, there goes our review!
Once again, brilliant mind Ahmed Mourad hits the cinemas with another mind-twisting work of art. “Al-Aslyeen” is Mourad’s first ever scenario that is not based on a novel, and second collaboration with genius director Marwan Hamed. The movie narrates the story of Samir Eleiwa, a father of two who has long enjoyed a stable job at a bank until an abrupt decision to cut down on employees leaves him fired with hideous compensation. Married to a shopaholic of a wife and indebted to a pile of bills, this routine-loving human being tries to find another job but instead another job finds him.
“The desperately sharp bank employee gets pushed off the edge of routine only to join an adventure that kicks him out of ‘wise father’ seat and spares him a VIP view of the world.”
On one calm night, Samir’s tv-watching is interrupted by a door bell and a phone left on his porch with a sticky note ordering him to use his finger print, a move that doesn’t just unlock his phone but rather his past. And in the minutes that follow, Eleiwa gets to watch videos of his whole life and so everything in his world crashes with a press of that play button.
All through the movie, we didn’t witness Ahmed Mourad’s words being acted out on Maged ElKedwany’s lips but rather on his face. We got to see the desperately sharp bank employee pushed off the edge of routine only to join an adventure that kicks him out of ‘wise father’ seat and spares him a VIP view of the world. We saw how the excitement slowly overwhelmed his features, pushing his wrinkles out of their usual place, and how the fear drew him back when the truth punched him in the face. All these emotions were interpreted at times when this dazzling actor wasn’t even mouthing any words.
“Everything in his world crashes with a press of that play button”
This simple straightforward pizza-lover finds himself possessing way more information than he needs in his life. Suddenly he is able to see the naked truth of everyone around him. While we’ve only met Mourad a few times, we remember him saying that knowing too much isn’t always a perk!
Although Al-Aslyeen is mainly starring Kedwany, it is flavored with the special appearance of joker Khaled ElSawy who wows us with his role as one of the “originals”; those who watch us for the country’s sake, the bucket full of talent Menna Shalaby who plays the devoted researcher being watched by Samir Eleiwa and charismatic Kinda Alloush who owns the wife role with her smooth and natural performance, leaving us with smiles on our faces at intense times when we didn’t expect it.
With the perfect ingredients, there is no way out of pleasure especially when Marwan Hamed is the brush that paints the picture. After their previous collaboration on The Blue Elephant and the jaw-dropping visuals used in the movie, it comes as no surprise that Al-aslyeen with its color pallets, camera angles and direction is an extension to this premium quality.
A main pillar in this equation is the background music that has worked as a connector for all the dots, setting the mood for you to space out of your world and enter Samir’s. Credits for this great shift go to composer Hisham Nazih.
We are used to Mourad’s open endings and continuous mazes, and Al-Aslyeen is no exception to the rule. “There comes a time when poultry actually believe they can escape the farm, the farm that is nevertheless fenceless.” In these words, Mourad chose to wrap up the movie reflecting on our own sad truth. We are constantly being watched, but can we escape our fenceless farm? The movie conveys the idea that those who give themselves the absolute right to penetrate our privacy and watch us always claim they are doing it for the greater good and the benefit of the country.
“There comes a time when poultry actually believe they can escape the farm, the farm that is nevertheless fenceless.”
Artistic riddles and symbolism presented by this knowledgeable scholar slash author are destined to attract a rather niche audience. It is an unfortunate truth that a fair share of our nation would much rather watch Mohamed Ramadan portray their current street struggles than spend two hours trying to learn about our history in a typical Mourad mind-map. However, the lack of appreciation from these groups of society doesn’t cancel the necessity of the presence of art.
So, if you are reading this and you have got this far we advise you to go see the movie, just like we recommend that you cover up your laptop and phone cameras!