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678-movie-posterThe Egyptian movie, [678], which covers the subject of sexual harassment, is famous enough in Egypt today as it is. I must admit, from watching just the trailer, I took note of the genius performance and superb artistic delivery, but I also got the impression that the presentation may be overdramatizing the subject, or emotionally taking the side of women in a biased & exaggerated way, or completely ignoring the effect of the sometimes sexually provocative presentation of women when it happens in a society like the Egyptian one—this impression couldn’t be more wrong. What I found while watching the movie was one of the most heartwarming and pleasant surprises I’ve ever come across in the history of Egyptian cinema; no exaggeration, my friend. 678 draws you into a fascinatingly complex, interconnected, and rich world. 678 allows you to meet—and literally live with—such fresh, yet believable characters. 678 turns your head toward a bitter reality, in a harsh real world, yet soothes you with regular chuckles, and keeps you interested, bothered, engaged, and hopeful.

Every main cast member did a great job in my opinion, but I must say that Bushra clearly stands out; and I’m don’t want to disappoint—or be unfair to—other cast members, especially Nelly Kareem with a main character, by saying that this is only due to Bushra’s genius performance; Bushra’s performance was indeed fascinating, but she was also very lucky, because the other genius, Muhammad Diab, the writer and director of 678, gave Bushra his best character! Faiza, the character that Bushra plays, like a sad yet powerful tune in a beautiful song, is an unprecedented character in Egyptian cinema; and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that Faiza may revolutionize Egyptian cinema, or be the spark of such a creative, artistic revolution, where the voice of the observant Muslim for the first time ever gets delivered honestly, neutrally, fairly, and in a balanced and beautiful way. Faiza is one of the most believable characters I’ve ever gotten to know in a story, and easily my favorite hero in 678’s world; and I thank the two geniuses, Muhammad Diab and Bushra, for giving us and giving Egyptian cinema—and the world—such a memorable, lovable, and very real character.

Diab managed to turn Faiza into an irresistibly charming, unlikely hero (or heroine!), with all her ups & downs, good deeds & mistakes, kindness & anger, loudness & silence, courage & fear; simply put, Faiza is so perfectly imperfect. Even her arguments with her husband were believable and convincing—within the context of the Egyptian society and that social class; and Diab did not take sides, and did not try to emotionally blackmail you into taking sides either. In many situations, Diab makes you wonder who to blame—if you are a balanced person yourself and you can empathize with the culture, religion and challenges; makes it challenging for you to be biased, and thus subtly invites you to appreciate the complexity and individual challenges in this realistic world.

The only truly "bad guy" in 678 is the sexual harasser; Diab’s message is clear about this, especially because he shows you the far reaching effects and chain reaction that the harasser’s actions go through to eventually produce so much misery and evil within society; but Diab also makes at least one subtle hint to discourage you from completely demonizing the harasser, and to send the message that almost any human being is fallible. Diab also doesn’t shy away from shocking you (and his best character, Faiza!) by giving a minority of women a share of the blame; while empowering all women throughout the movie to take a courageous share of the responsibility of curing society of the phenomenon of sexual harassment.

If you will watch one movie to understand a bit about the Egyptian society—as it is today, without exaggerations or embellishment, in ways that focus on the phenomenon of sexual harassment, yet still ooze with variety, and ways that dig much deeper and beyond socially and emotionally; if you will watch one movie to see a believable example of a simple observant Muslim woman, struggling with real issues in her own society, a movie that doesn’t even expose any actress (or your eyes) to violence, rape, or the likes, while simultaneously making what is happening clear to you with such elegance and genius; if you will watch one foreign movie that does not take sides when it comes to religion or gender, makes it challenging for you to take sides when you see how these people think and treat each other, a movie that tackles serious issues rationally and intelligently; then this one movie is 678. Find it; and watch it! Watch it this weekend.

—Yaseen Rocca

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