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.


Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

Updated 19 May 2019
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Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

DUBAI: No question was off limits for curious tourists and foreign residents of Dubai wanting to learn more about Emirati culture and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Emiratis make up less than 10% of those living in Dubai, the most populated emirate in the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates federation, making it hard for foreigners to meet them.
Dubai goes to great lengths to market itself as open to different cultures and faiths as the Middle East’s financial, trade and leisure center, and a government cultural center is inviting visitors to find out more about Emirati life.
“There are no offending questions,” said Emirati Rashid Al-Tamimi from the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.
“How do you worship, what is the mosque, why do you wear white, why do women wear black ... is everybody rich in this country?“
Emirati volunteers gathered at a majlis — the traditional sitting room where the end-of-fast iftar meal is served at floor-level — were asked about dating and marriage, what they think of Dubai’s comparatively liberal dress codes for foreigners, and aspects of the Muslim faith.
“We learn from them, they learn from us. (Foreigners) have been here a long time and I feel they see themselves as Emiratis, and we are proud that they do so,” said Majida Al-Gharib a student volunteer.
Visitors broke the day’s fast with dates and water, before sampling Emirati cuisine, including biryani and machboos rice and meat dishes.
Seven-year-old Anthony from Poland, who goes to school in Dubai, said he came to find out more about the breaking of the fast meal because many of his friends at school do it.
2019 has been designated the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates and there is a minister of state for tolerance.