A box office story

Nahed Nasr , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

Egyptian cinema seems to be recovering at last, reports Nahed Nasr

Egyptian Cinema

 

This year Egyptian cinema is in relative recovery after a period of decline that started in 2020. By the seventh week of 2024, 15 Egyptian films are screening in theatres, including 10 films competing for revenues. Five of those films were released in February: The Mexican Experiment by Shady Ali, A Nose and Three Eyes by Amir Ramses, The System by Ahmed Al-Bendari, Derwila by Moawad Ismail, and Extra Time by Osama Omar. Eight others were released in January: Me and My Cousin by Ahmed Saleh, Al-Iskandarani by Khaled Youssef, Azima’s Gang by Wael Ehsan, The Footballers by Raouf Al- Sayed, Maksoum by Kawthar Younis, Unfair Adel by Ahmed Yousri, and Flight 404 by Hani Khalifa. Two have been showing continuously since last December: Firecrackers by Amr Salama, and Brother-in-Law by Rami Emam.

One notable surprise this season is that The Footballers topped box office revenues for the seventh week in a row. Released on 4 January, it first took the third-grossing spot, then settled in first place throughout the following weeks. It achieved a total revenue of LE 57,890,996. The film is Raouf Al-Sayed’s feature debut, and its cast does not include box office stars except for Bayoumi Fouad, in addition to Nour Al-Nabawi, a young actor known only for his roles in soap operas. But its topic — football — is particularly popular with young people and teenagers. A group of famous footballers also appear in the film, including Ahmed Hossam Mido, Gamal Hamza, Amir Abdel-Hamid, and Tamer Bagato, the former a footballer who turned to acting at the start of the millennium, in addition to the young standup comedian Abdel-Rahman Mohamed. The Footballers was written by Iyad Saleh, a director and writer of many famous television programmes who, in cooperation with Al-Sayed, was able to present the world of football players in an attractive comedic framework reminiscent of the most famous Egyptian comedy films about football, but using the language of a new generation.

Another surprise of the current season is the presence of films in which actresses play the main roles, something that has seldom happened in recent years. Among those is Flight 404, which has taken second place at the box office since its release in mid-January. The film achieved a total revenue of LE 17,591,509. Male stars appear in the film: Mohamed Mamdouh, Mohamed Farrag, and Khaled Al-Sawi. But it is film star Mona Zaki who plays the lead, Ghada. A few days before she travels to Mecca to perform the Hajj, an emergency forces Ghada to reach out to people from her troubled past, with whom she had cut off contact, in order to collect a sum of money. As a result, she becomes tangled in the webs of her youth.

Maqsoum is the debut long fiction film by Kawthar Younis, a filmmaker hailing from the world of independent cinema, whose award-winning films include her short film My Girlfriend (2022), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won awards at prestigious festivals, including the Cairo International Film Festival and the Amman Film Festival. My Girlfriend is written by Haitham Dabour, a novelist and screenwriter whose film credits include Photocopy (2017), Gunshot (2018) and A Stand Worthy of Men (2021). Five actresses star in Maqsoum: the renowned film star Leila Elwi, Sherine Reda, Sama Ibrahim, Sarah Abdel-Rahman, and Nouran Abu Taleb. Actors Mohamed Shahin, Sayed Ragab, Mohamed Mamdouh, and Omar Wahba also take part in the film. Former university band members Amy, Rania, and Hend receive an invitation to give a concert in Aswan, which they see as an opportunity to revive their 1990s band. The trio embarks on a final musical adventure full of unexpected situations.

Another film where the main role is played by a female is Azima’s Gang. Having recently played guest-star roles in a number of films, the renowned film star, comedian, producer and host Isaad Younis plays the lead in this comedy about a blind woman who forms a gang to protect her home. The film achieved a total revenue of LE 4,017,647.

In the second half of January, two other films were released in which female movie stars play the main role. The first is The Eid Night, directed by Sameh Abdel-Aziz, written by Ahmed Abdallah, and starring Yousra. The film highlights the suffering of a group of women living on an island, where they go through several crises because of the men surrounding them. Also participating in the film are Yousra Al-Lozy, Reham Abdel-Ghafour, Abeer Sabry, Naglaa Badr, Arifa Abdel-Rasoul, Samiha Ayoub, Mohamed Lotfy, Sayed Ragab, and Ahmed Khaled Saleh. The film achieved a total revenue of LE 635,933.

The second film is The Queen starring Hala Sedki together with Rania Youssef, Basem Samra, Sherine Reda and Dina. Directed by Sameh Abdel-Aziz, it is a comedy that revolves around the businesswoman Magda, who tries in various ways to outdo the machinations of her competitors.

Another highlight of the season is a new film version of the novel A Nose and Three Eyes by the well-known writer Ihsan Abdel-Quddous (1919-1990), by director Amir Ramses. The novel was previously made into a film of the same name in 1972, directed by Hussein Kamal, generally seen as a classic of Egyptian cinema. In his version, Ramses presents a new treatment directly inspired by the novel, with some references to the events of the old film. While the main roles in Hussein Kamal’s film were played by Mahmoud Yassin, Magda, Naglaa Fathi and Mervat Amin, Amir Ramses chose Dhafer Al-Abedine, Saba Mubarak, Salma Abu Deif, and Amina Khalil for his film. The events revolve around Dr Hashem’s relationship with three women, each of whom has a different story. Ramses presents Dr Hashem differently, however, drawing out the psychological dimensions of the womaniser character and giving him motives for multiple relationships with three women, while Hussein Kamal’s version was more inclined to highlight the motives of the three women in being close to him. However, both films present the story in a romantic framework that characterises all of Abdel-Quddous’ work. The film achieved a total revenue of LE 1,652,106.

Al-Iskandarani marks the return of director Khaled Youssef to cinema for the first time since 2018, when he directed Karma. In the period from 2001 to 2011, Youssef was remarkably prolific, making 12 of the more talked-about films. This new action film was released in the first week of January, ranking second at the box office on its release but dropping to fourth in the following weeks, with a total revenue of LE 26,018,963. It stars Ahmed Al-Awadi, Zeina, Hussein Fahmi, Bayoumi Fouad, and Salah Abdallah. The events of the film take place in Alexandria, where after many conflicts with his father, his cousin, and his mistress, Bakr Al-Iskandarani decides to escape abroad in search of a new life. The film is based on a screenplay by the renowned late screenwriter Osama Anwar Okasha.

Director Amr Salama has found a place for himself on the scene since his debut feature film, On a Day Like Today (2008). He has recently become one of the most prolific directors in film and television, directing two films and three series from 2017 to 2022. Salama’s latest film this season is Firecrackers which, like most of his films, he also wrote. The film stars Aser Yassin, Amina Khalil, Khaled Al-Sawi, and Mohamed Tharwat.

In the film, an illegitimate son, Raouf, aspires to be recognised by his father, the drug dealer Salim Ahl, so he does his dirty work, including carrying out assassinations. But when his father orders him to kill Amina, the daughter of one of his former enemies, he finds himself in a difficult situation. He helps her escape his father’s clutches, and events develop when he falls in love with her. The film premiered at the Red Sea International Film Festival, and was well received by critics and the audience. It ranked second at the box office when it was released in Egyptian film theatres in the first week of the year. However, it dropped to fifth in the second week, and by the seventh week had reached 23rd place. The film achieved a total revenue of LE 26,912,225.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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