Film review: Fact meets fiction in ambitious drama ‘Yomeddine’

A still from ‘Yomeddine.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 27 September 2018
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Film review: Fact meets fiction in ambitious drama ‘Yomeddine’

  • Yomeddine is a touching road-trip drama
  • It steers clear of becoming a celebration of disfigurement and poverty

EL GOUNA: It takes phenomenal guts for a first-time director to tackle a subject such as leprosy, with an actual victim of the disease in the lead role.
A. B. Shawky’s “Yomeddine,” which screened at the El Gouna Film Festival this week, is a touching road-trip drama starring Rady Gamal, a real-life leprosy survivor. The director met Gamal at a leper colony north of Cairo when he made a short documentary, “The Colony,” in 2009. He could not have found a better actor. Gamal is not ashamed of his disease or disability and uses his wrinkled face with marvelous ease to express his joys and pains.
Gamal stars as Beshay and when first we see him, his gnarled hands rummaging through a garbage bin, we are shocked. When his mentally unstable wife Ireny (Shoq Emara) dies, Gamal decides to find his estranged family. He gets into his donkey cart and, along with young friend Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz), embarks on the journey of a lifetime. Since ancient times, lepers have been treated as outcasts (as we saw in most brutal form in William Wyler’s 1959 classic “Ben-Hur”), and not much has changed for Beshay in the present day. He is looked down upon and kept at arm’s length by people unduly fearful of contracting the disease. The road from Cairo, where Beshay begins his journey, to Luxor, where the family that abandoned him lives, is filled with adventures, some happy, some not.
Although the movie has several high points, which probably helped it earn its competition slot at the Cannes Film Festival in May, the plot is weak in places, becoming boringly predictable, and some scenes simply seem unnecessary. For instance, was there really a need for flashbacks and dream sequences, which appear to stick out like a sore thumb?
The climax, meanwhile, seems forced as Shawky seems to have taken the easy way out. If the idea was to draw the viewer into an emotional trap, it does not quite work. However, “Yomeddine” does steer clear of becoming a celebration of disfigurement and poverty.


Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

Updated 15 October 2018
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Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

  • Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year before he died
  • “He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said

LONDON: Stephen Hawking’s final work, which tackles issues from the existence of God to the potential for time travel, was launched on Monday by his children, who helped complete the book after the British astrophysics giant’s death.
Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year — but did not finish it before he died in March, aged 76.
It has been completed by the theoretical physicist’s family and academic colleagues, with material drawn from his vast personal archive.
“He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said at the Science Museum in London.
The book was an attempt to “bring together the most definitive, clearest, most authentic answers that he gave.
“We all just wish he has here to see it.”
Hawking, who was wheelchair bound due to motor neurone disease, dedicated his life’s work to unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
The cosmologist was propelled to stardom by his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time,” an unlikely worldwide bestseller.
It won over fans from far beyond the rarefied world of astrophysics and prompted people into asking the mastermind his thoughts on broader topics, answered in his final work.

The 10 questions Hawking tackles are:
-- Is there a God?
-- How did it all begin?
-- What is inside a black hole?
-- Can we predict the future?
-- Is time travel possible?
-- Will we survive on Earth?
-- Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
-- Should we colonize space?
-- Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
-- How do we shape the future?


In his book, Hawking says humans have no option but to leave Earth, risking being “annihilated” if they do not.
He says computers will overtake humans in intelligence during the next 100 years, but “we will need to ensure that the computers have goals aligned with ours.”
Hawking says the human race had to improve its mental and physical qualities, but a genetically-modified race of superhumans, say with greater memory and disease resistance, would imperil the others.
He says that by the time people realize what is happening with climate change, it may be too late.
Hawking says the simplest explanation is that God does not exist and there is no reliable evidence for an afterlife, though people could live on through their influence and genes.
He says that in the next 50 years, we will come to understand how life began and possibly discover whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.
“He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges are global, we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking,” Lucy Hawking said.
“It’s a call to unity, to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us.”
In his final academic paper, Hawking shed new light on black holes and the information paradox, with new work calculating the entropy of black holes.
Turned into an animation narrated by Hawking’s artificial voice, it was shown at the book launch.
“It was very emotional. I turned away because I had tears forming,” Lucy Hawking told AFP on hearing her father’s voice again.
“It feels sometimes like he’s still here because we talk about him and hear his voice — and then we have the reminder that he’s left us.”