Casual coffees never make sense in his presence, sitting across this encyclopedia of a writer is exactly like attending his movies, you can’t seem to relax in your seat, so fixated that even the temptation of caramel popcorn can’t distract you. With Ahmed Mourad in the house, you will be shocked at how little you know about your own past. This phenomenal screenwriter’s all new movie Al-Aslyeen has been the talk of the town in the past month with people wondering if it is pretentiously philosophical or just a notch above brilliant? Well, what we know for fact is it shakes lots of grounds that we falsely believed were stable.
We have all been spoon-fed the legacy of Baheya and Yassin, the story of a woman martyred in defense of her love, later featured in national songs as ‘mamma Egypt’. “Baheya msh omy (Baheya isn’t my mother)” Mourad jokes. “The real story is completely different and I am not the first one to reveal it. We are ignorant of our own history in the name of religion. We have created this gap between us and our ancestors believing that they were worshipers of soul-less statues and therefore were infidels. It is not that we don’t know our history, it is that we don’t want to know it”, Mourad argues.
This thought-challenging movie initially narrates the life of Samir Eleiwa, an ex-banker who, after realizing that he was being watched all his life and no longer enjoying any privacy even in his own bathroom, gets offered a monitoring job where he can spy on people and see the world as naked as it can be. “Back in 2012, I sat with someone who was occupying a similar job. I was trying to develop an understanding of his personal feelings towards the job. It is a bit of a divine sensation to be able to penetrate people’s walls and listen to every word they say to their friends, family or even to themselves in the mirror! This lends a human being a quality that he shouldn’t even possess and creates some sort of distortion when he gets out in the normal world again. I took this mood to create Samir’s psychological state when he realizes he doesn’t even know his own family”, he tells.
“You have to find the tumor in you and kill it before it kills you!”
Mourad, who initially spent 10 years of his life as former president Hosny Mobarak’s personal photographer until he broke free of a routine-full life, knows what it is like to be in Samir Eleiwa’s shoes. “At this time in my life I had everything I could wish for but I was unhappy. This is a phase we all reach in our lives, Samir is a syndrome not a character, and he is in all of us with varying ratios”, Mourad tells.
“I was created from power, I am life, and I am death, I am love, I am hate, I am chastity…” were words mouthed by Menna Shalaby’s character Thoraya Galal, one that represented an astonishing portrayal of the Egyptian woman in Mourad’s script. “This dialogue is an old manuscript for Ashtar, the oldest female goddess in history, where she was describing herself. We live in a male-dominated society which is something that I didn’t really mind before since we were raised to accept this reality but now that I have two daughters I have started clashing with it,” he muses.
“When creating Thoraya Galal, I thought of setting a new role model, a woman who considers love as part of her life rather than the ultimate goal, one that doesn’t care if she is 30 and not married yet, one that is completely passionate about her job and career”, he describes.
With forces like Marwan Hamed and Ahmed Mourad, it is expected that every portrait be a jaw-dropping painting, “In order to create a world that people haven’t seen before, we had to manipulate locations that you might see every day into something you have never laid eyes on. In Al-Moez Street for example, we shot at dawn, and as for the island scene we created a maze in the Qursayah Island in Giza”, he reveals.
“Of course we are being watched!”
Causing a never-ending controversy, Mourad left the term “Al-Aslyeen” vague in attempt of having viewers deduce their own conclusions. “Khaled ElSawy’s character, who is one of “Al-Aslyeen”, is fictional, he doesn’t represent any security system in our real world but rather a symbol of upper power”, Mourad clarifies.
“Our society demands that whenever any man and women approach each other they have to get married, can’t they be friends?”
And on his shocker-endings we had to ask, “I don’t care about giving viewers a certain conclusion to go home with. I’d hate to wrap it up with a classical kiss at the wedding of the hero and heroine”, he protests, “when Anwar Wagdy and Laila Mourad get married by the end of any movie, it is a beginning not an end. And there is no such thing as the devil going behind bars whilst Samir and Thoraya get married because that wouldn’t make any sense. Our society demands that whenever any man and women approach each other they have to get married, can’t they be friends?” he adds.
And does the one that made us cover up our laptop webcams, cover his? “Taking this movie home with us is inevitable as it presents a global phenomenon. When Mark Zuckerberg covers up his camera, Dubai bans televisions with cameras in them, terrorists accomplish missions through X box cameras, delivery people asks too many questions when you are merely ordering food then of course we are being watched”, Ahmed Mourad concludes.