The minute Melody Aflam’s advertisements for Ana Badea’ ya Wadea’ (I’m Falling Apart Wadea’) were released they became instant cult classics. The advertisements were sleazy, jocular, stylised and openly embraced the crassness that is common in Egyptian cinema productions. It was only a matter of time before the characters became famous and hit the big screen.
One thing that can be said about Melody Aflam’s production is that it stays true to the advertisements.
The film centres on a sleazy film producer, Tohamy (Ayman Kandiel) and his right hand man Wadea’ Sharaf (Amgad Abed). Tohamy is intent on producing second-rate Arabic movies, taking the liberty of interfering with the scripts, while Wadea’ facilitates his wishes. Business is interrupted when the tax authorities chase up Tohamy’s production company. Unwilling to pay, Tohamy begs Wadee’ to find him a way out of the mess. The film follows them on their journey of trying to find solutions to the problem.
The film starts off with a truly abysmal scene of a man and woman flirting in a swimming pool. The scene is, in general, rather dull, reflecting a low quality Arabic production. It begins to go downhill when the woman is discovered by her husband and two bodyguards. Here we encounter some of the most poorly delivered lines in the history of cinema. That’s it; I thought to myself, this film is doomed.
Luckily, someone in the film shouts, “Stop!” saving the viewers from what could have been a horrendous experience.
The Melody Aflam team is painfully aware of what constitutes a bad Arabic film. The film appears to have the workings of a bad movie: unbelievable sleaze, the objectification of women and a plot devoid of any meaning. However, the film and the advertisements represent a mixture of mockery and celebration of Arabic movies with all their flaws.
For films like these, the question we should ask is: is it entertaining and original? It is. It is a well-executed comedy that provides amusement throughout.
The film avoids falling into the traps it aimed to mock. One of the commendable elements of the movie is the acting. Kandiel and Abed are equally as competent as the veteran actors involved in this production such as Entesar and Nelly Karim. Kandiel’s portrayal of a woman in the movie is a testimony of his capabilities. In fact, all the acting is good; the bad acting only occurs when it is intentional.
The sound design was executed with great attention to detail. The scenes were not rushed, with even the most straightforward giving the impressions of being composed of planned shots carried out with care.
Two particularly amusing parodies were included in the film as sketches. One was of Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) and the other was of Turkish dramas dubbed in Arabic.
The film may stir debate about the concept of ‘clean Egyptian cinema’. This is by no means a family-friendly movie. At times the comedy aims to break numerous taboos and stretches the limits of censorship to try to resemble street humour. The humour is highly sexual and advocates of ‘clean’ cinema will not be at all pleased.
The movie reflects the hypocrisy of the Egyptian film industry (and indeed that of Egyptian society in general) where some producers are indeed that crass and seedy, pretending they have something of value to add. At least with Tohamy, there’s no pretence.
Fortunately the film did not tackle anything related to the revolution. There were only two unforced references to the January 25 Revolution.
One of the film’s best features is its unabashed defence of nihilistic values, which at the very least makes the movie funny and entertaining. Ana Badea’ ya Wadea’ defends this philosophy until the very end, escaping one of the biggest clichés in Arabic films.
Starring: Ayman Kandiel, Amgad Abed, Entesar, Dia El Merghany, Mohsen Mansour, Lamita Franjieh, Nelly Karim
Written by: Mohamed Fadl; Directed by: Sherif Abdeen