Casablanca is the name of the ship on which the main incident in the eponymous Eid film by Peter Mim takes place. It is also the name of the Moroccan city where most of it is set.
The top grossing film this season with a revenue of LE5,082,209 (out of a total of LE11,730,936 total for all five new Egyptian films) on its fourth day of screening, the 104 min film is the story of four friends-turned-enemies from Alexandria and employs the Hollywood action formula with car and motorcycle chases against the backdrop of the Moroccan landscape which is included in every scene including the trendy, bird’s-eye shots made with a drone.
Despite a weak script by Hisham Hilal, both the cinematography and the nature of the genre (action films, which prove extremely popular among the young especially, make up three out of five films this season) have no doubt contributed to its success. So has the casting.
The film stars Amir Karara (Omar Al-Mor) whose role in Mimy’s Ramadan TV series Kalabsh (Cuffs, 2017-19, with a new season announced for 2020), has raised his profile considerably.
Casablanca and Kalabsh also share the same production company, Synergy Art Production, founded by producer Tamer Morsi.
There is no appreciable difference between Karara as Al-Mor in Casablanca and Karara as Selim Al-Ansary in Kalabsh — or indeed as either of two other action heroes he played in Harb Karmooz (2018) and Huroob Edtirari (2017) — but the character of the honest, honourable rebel certainly serves him well.
Amr Abdel-Gelil (Orabi) and Iyad Nassar (Rashid) play members of the gang, and although there is nothing new here, they too did what they do best. Ahmed Dash (Zakaria) is another popular face who plays the interesting role of Al- Mor’s earnest younger brother, demonstrating that his rise to fame as the child protagonist of La Moakhza (Excuse My French 2014) by Amr Salama was but the start of a long career. Dash played powerful roles in Clash (2016) by Mohamed Diab, Photocopy (2017) by Tamer Ashry, and Tayea (2018), a TV series by Amr Salama.
A charming casting surprise is the appearance of he Turkish actor Halit Ergenç (Dragon), who is well-known in the Arab world for his role in the Turkish series The Magnificent Century. He plays a typical crime boss who has his own strict moral code and mode of judging others.
The female characters are the weakest part of a weak script, and the acting is consequently less impressive. Both Ghada Adel (Vivia), and Lebleba (Zouzou) appear suddenly and illogically and seem to exist merely to fill a gender gap.
Although she only appeared for few minutes as a guest of honour, the film star Nelly Karim was able to capture the audience’s attention as the only female actress who appears in a completely new and surprising look in a black suit kick-boxing the enemies of Omar Al-Mor as professionally as any well trained gang member.
This might be the start of a new, equally successful stage in Karim’s career.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 June 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Moroccan rhapsody
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