TV times

Soha Hesham , Wednesday 3 Apr 2024

With the holy month coming to an end it has to be said this is by far one of the best Ramadan TV seasons in recent memory.

Lahzet Ghadab
Lahzet Ghadab

 

Shorter series hit a snappier chord and, combined with the work of directorial rising stars — Yasmine Ahmed Kamel in Aala Nesbet Moshada (Highest Views) and Abdel-Aziz Al-Naggar in Lahzet Ghadab (A Moment of Anger) — they have delivered a powerful experience.

The 15-episode concept emerged timidly at first, growing steadily with hits like Betlou Al-Rouh (Backbreaking, 2022), directed by Kamla Abu-Zekri and starring Menna Shalabi, Elham Shahin and Ahmed Al-Saadani, Tagheer Gaw (Change of Scenery, 2023), directed by Mariam Abu-Ouf and starring Menna Shalabi, Eyad Nassar and Mervat Amin, and Kamel Al-Adad (Full House, 2023), directed by Khaled Al-Halafawi and starring Dina Al-Sherbini and Sherif Salama. But my view is that it was Mohamed Shakir Khodeir’s Taht Al-Wessaya (Under Custodianship, also last year) that, with the help of a brilliant performance by Mona Zaki, secured the genre.

This year the concept has been the new normal. Exceptions are few and they include the historical drama Al-Hashashin (The Assassins), directed by Peter Mimi and written by Abdel-Rehim Kamal. The 15-episode series was not the only feature of the season, however. The theme of siblings — delicately treated and beautifully thought out in Nadine Khan’s Masar Egbari, featuring Ahmed Dash and Essam Omar — was also widespread. It was tackled in Kamel Al-Adad +1 (the second season of “Full House”), where it played out comically among the many sons and daughters of the protagonist couple, but also in a movingly psychological way in Aala Nesbet Moshahda. But it was Lahzet Ghadab (A Moment of Anger), directed by Abdel-Aziz Al-Naggar and written by Mohab Tarek, that I focused on in the last two weeks.

Lahzet Ghadab opens with Yomna (Saba Mubarak), a cook at a famous hotel, unintentionally killing her abusive husband Sherif (Mohamed Farrag, a guest star). It is the evening of her birthday and he has pushed her to the edge — being a submissive character, Yomna seems to have put up with Sherif humiliating her for too long — and now her pent-up anger explodes as she strikes him with a rolling pin. An outstanding thriller with a sense of irony spilling over into comedy, the series is an intelligent take on the theme of women’s oppression.

In the next scene, Sherif’s body is hidden under the sink while members of his family are gathered to celebrate his wife’s birthday. They include his sister Fatma (Sara Abdel-Rahman), who will resort to black magic in her attempt to find him, revealing the existence of such practices even among the higher echelons of Egyptian society. Mohab Tarek’s screenplay is attentive to detail, and offers a tightly constructed and coherent plotline, enhanced by Karim Gaber and Amr Hamama’s score, which gives the whole series an unmistakable ambience, more exciting than tragic.

Another clever subplot involves Yomna’s neighbour Asser (Ali Qassem), who is seen often in the hallway: Yomna finds out he knows what happened when he begins to blackmail her into performing tasks for a secret employer using her feminine charms. At the same time, as Yomna seeks help, her old friend Nayera (Nardine Farag) resurfaces. She is the only person Yomna can trust with her secret, and she begins to help her with the aftermath of her crime and her relationship with both Asser and Sherif’s brother, who suspects her of being behind Sherif’s disappearance.

Abdel-Aziz Al-Naggar is a talented director whose potential had only just started to show in his latest, acclaimed Halah Khasa (Special Case, 2024), starring Taha Dessouki and Ghada Adel, on which he also joined forces with Mohab Tarek.  He is also a screenwriter in his own right, known for co-writing the second season of Al-Harami (The Thief, 2021) with Ahmed Fawzi Saleh and Alaa Mosbah. Starring Ahmed Dash, Rana Raees and Bayoumi Fouad, the series was directed by Ahmed Al-Gendi. In the same year he co-wrote the Shahid VIP-streamed Bimbo (2021), starring Ahmed Malek, Wegz and Huda Al-Mufti, and directed by Amr Salama. He also directed sketches featured on the programme Amin wa Shorakah (Amin & Co.).

 

***

Hani Khalifa, an older director who started with film, joins the Ramadan race with Bedoun Sabeq Indhar (Without Prior Warning), a drama written by Samar Taher, Karim Al-Dalil and Ammar Sabry, based on Amr Al-Dali’s treatment of a story by Alma Kafarna. The show focuses on a married couple, Marwan and Laila (respectively Asser Yassin and Aisha Bin Ahmed), now seeking counsel due to ongoing marital problems. Once the counsellor suggests that they take a break, they find out their son Omar is suffering from leukemia and then their lives are turned upside down.

This is Khalifa’s second work in the same year to tackle such a controversial issue after last film, Rehla 404 (Flight 404), starring Mona Zaki. First we see the young son’s illness and his parents’ search for a cell donor, during which process Marwan discovers that Omar is not his biological son. When he confronts Laila, she too takes a DNA test, it transpires that Omar is not hers either. This twist recalls the real-life case of Greta Al-Zoghby, a Lebanese woman who following unrelated blood tests realised her mother and father were both unrelated to her…

There are two other lines in the screenplay: Amina (Nora Sheishaa), Laila’s friend who, having failed to find a partner with whom to share her life, informs Laila of her decision to freeze her eggs in order to keep her options open — a somewhat forced feminist touch — and Marwan’s brother Hassan (Ahmed Khaled Saleh), a financially challenged man married to a woman from a different social background, Noha (Gehad Hossameddine) from a different social background, whose brother is a junkie. Much of the drama defaults to the search for the biological son replaced at birth. Both Asser Yassin and Aisha Bin Ahmed’s performances feel unsuitable, however.

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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