Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab responds to 'attacks' on new film Clash, shares praise from Tom Hanks

Ahram Online , Tuesday 26 Jul 2016

Clash was the only Egyptian film to be screened at the 69th Cannes Festival and was chosen to open the Un Certain Regard section

(Photo: Still from Clash by Mohamed Diab)

One day prior to the release of his new film, Mohamed Diab, director of Eshtebak (Clash), published a note sent to him from actor Tom Hanks praising the film.

The photo of the note signed by Hanks was accompanied by a statement from Diab, sharing some thoughts on trouble the film is facing before its release.

“This message was sent to me by Tom Hanks, about the artistic level of my film, Clash. He did not send me an e-mail, it was so important to him that he sent me a signed letter, saying the movie had the capacity to change the Western world's typical vision of Egyptians,” Diab writes.

The famed director added that actor Daniel Craig had also sent him a similar letter, “which contradicts what people are saying about this movie ruining Egypt's reputation.”

Clash premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and was listed by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the 10 best films at the festival. It is set for release in Egyptian cinemas on 27 July.

The highly anticipated film explores -- in an unusual manner -- the confrontations between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents that emerged after the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi from power in June 2013.

Most of the film takes place inside an eight metre long police truck, with detainees representing different societal groups.

Nelly Karim, alongside Tarek Abd El-Aziz, Hany Adel, Ahmed Malek, Ashraf Hamdi, Mohamed Abdel Azim, and Gamil Barsoum star in Clash.

Diab listed a number of incidents that led him to believe the film is at the center of many attacks, inlcuding the "National Censorship insisted on putting a sentence with political implications at the beginning of the movie, implying that the film was siding up with a group over another."

He also mentioned "non-stop campaigns at the time of the Cannes Festival, defaming the film," and "the delay in national censorship's agreement and the delay in their agreement to the poster," as evidence of the political blowback from the film.

Clash was also the target of negative criticism on an episode of the television programme Ana Masr, presented by TV host Amany El-Khayat on state-owned Nile TV.

Diab stated that even if all of the above instances are to be seen as coincidences, or even a fear of hysteria, the last incident seems to show bad faith towards the film.

“When the film distributor retreats a few days before the release, and a wide number of cinemas don't show the film's poster even the weekend before its release, I am obligated to think there a lot of coincidences, and maybe this is all done on purpose.”

The director went on to say that a film without a distributor can be removed from cinemas after two or three days under the pretext of unpopularity, suggesting that this was done in order to avoid a national scandal of not screening the film at all.

“If this plan succeeds, I don't think anyone will make movies fighting mainstream opinions, or any opinions at all, because what director wants to risk his money on a project that gets shut down before it can even make any money?” Diab asked.

Though the film was celebrated at Cannes and was sold for international screenings across Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia, Diab stresses that “the most important success is its success in Egypt, among the people whom the film was made for.”

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