Abu Bakr Shawky – Egypt
IN A NUTSHELL
Beshay (Rady Gamal) is a man afflicted by leprosy, traveling across Egypt after his wife’s death to find his long-lost relatives. Along the way he is joined by the orphaned adolescent Obama (Ahmed Abedelhafiz). Together, the pair make their way with a rickety wagon and a donkey across desert roads and follow the Nile River to Qena, where an old file suggests Beshay might find the family that left him years ago. This is director A.B. Shawky’s first feature and surprisingly is the only debut in Cannes 2018 competition. A touching buddy/road movie which pays homage to Italian neo-realism, the film deals with how society treats outsiders. (by Bianca Garner)
“The moral of humility and isolation that Shawky bluntly forces into the narrative defies all expectations, but not to a positive effect. Sticking to your kind might be a realistic and measured decision for Bashey and Obama to make, given Egypt’s apparent disinterest in helping its more unfortunate citizens. Shawky nevertheless refuses to highlight the government and the culture’s responsibility towards its lepers and orphans, instead admitting defeat and making both outcasts happy to have been on this journey, but happier still to never again hope for better.” – – – – – Manuela Lazic, Little White Lies
“An ode to the power of cinema in reminding us what makes us human and why life has so much to celebrate beyond one’s looks, shape or size, A.B. Shawky’s film shows us an Egypt never seen before on film through the eyes of a man cured from leprosy but plagued by a world that never wants him to fit in. Technically, the film masterfully depicts Egypt in totally new ways, capturing the beauty at the heart of misery and elegance in the smallest of details. Never shying away from actual filming locations, it feels completely authentic and heartfelt.” – – – – – Mina Takla, AwardsWatch
“In one particularly emphatic sequence on a bus, passengers besiege Beshey with cruelty and scorn, as the exasperated man cries out, “I’m a human being!” Crafting manipulating sequences that impart specific moral messages and ascribe a gallery of side characters with cartoonish functions—like the man who leaves a Koran behind in a jail cell, thus leading to a Keystone Cops-worthy police chase—does nothing to bring any real awareness to the plight of the marginalized.” – – – – – Sam C. Mac, Slant Magazine
There’s a real romantic backstory here – both in filmmaking terms, and the union of people. Director Shawky and his producer met during the long journey of getting this film made, and are now married. The film itself was a grueling production, so many years following Shawky’s film he wanted to make a fiction feature. But who is going to back an Egyptian film made by unknowns about a leprosy sufferer? Through some epic crowdfunding, and support from family and friends, Yomeddine was born out of sheer determination and a love of story-telling.
Of course, the cast are not professionals, one actor, Rady Gamal, actually had leprosy with the scars clearly showing to prove it. Adored in many circles, Yomeddine may well get a collective pat on the back – if the rest of the strong competition doesn’t swallow it up. If the jury again recognize the efforts of getting such a small, unique film made, and delivered to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, then it may be a dark horse for a big prize. Long shot. My guess, the Ecumenical Jury might reward this deep humanitarian tale.