The Controversial Clash
Clash (aka Eshtebak) is a drama film set in the summer of 2013, during the chaotic political events that followed the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi from power. Filmed in a unique and unusual manner, the entire movie takes place in an eight meter long police truck, with the detainees representing a variety of societal groups from simple normal people with no political interests to religious and political extremists, whose characters are played by several stars including Nelly Karim, alongside Tarek Abd El-Aziz, Hany Adel, Ahmed Malek, Ashraf Hamdi, Mohamed Abdel Azim, Gamil Barsoum, and many others; making it a just not one star movie where every actor’s role and story matters in a beautiful plot written by Khaled and Mohamed Diab and also directed by the latter.
The movie was widely praised internationally. Clash premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016, it was the opening film of the category of “Un Certain Regard.” It was also listed by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the 10 best films at the festival. In addition to Director Mohamed Diab being nominated for the “Best Film by an Emerging Director” Award. The great American actor Tom Hanks congratulated Mohamed Diab in a letter that has been posted by Diab on Facebook, where Hanks praised “Clash” for going to “great lengths to enlighten many”. Diab also stated that Daniel Craig sent him a similar letter of appraisal. The film was sold for international screenings across Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia, and of course Egypt, and it was released on the 27th of July, making over one million pounds of profit in the first 48 hours after its release.
(Click letter to read)
Despite all the appraisal the movie received internationally, it still caused a lot of controversy here in Egypt prior to its release, awakening the long dormant cold war between the Egyptians, the government supporters and the protestors. Some claimed it presented a false negative and aggressive image of the Egyptian police while others assume it portrays the police as angels, when in fact neither is true. Mohamed Diab also listed in a long Facebook post the day before the movie’s release, a number of incidents that led him to believe the film is being attacked. He stated that “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”, and he also said that “the delay in national censorship’s agreement and the delay in their agreement to the poster,” were evidence of the political attack the film is receiving.
From a very neutral and unbiased point of view regardless of any political beliefs, the movie actually does not try to prove a party right or the other wrong, nor does it try to make you sympathize with one over the other. In fact, all the story tries to show and prove is that despite all our differences we are somehow the same, that if we put those disagreements aside we can actually coexist, and that we are all Egyptians in the end.
Now settling all the arguments, the script was not the only great thing about the movie. The protests were very well choreographed and the chaos on the outside was reflected on the inside in a mixture of fury and horror that was not just felt through the actors, but also through the unbalanced and shaken movements of the camera from both sides of the wagon, making the viewer experience and feel the mayhem. Add to that the lighting which seems challenging in the small area of the eight meter van, yet somehow was still sufficient and realistic since it seemed to be derived from the surrounding street lights, the green lasers and fire flames. The open ending though seemed aimless and the movie felt like it stopped in the middle of nowhere, but it might leave you thinking about what happens next and how come did we reach this.
Overall, I think it is a great movie with a different and unique script which is something we rarely witness in the Egyptian movie industry. It is the kind of movie we need right now and it might even set higher standards for those who try to make a similar kind of movie, or hopefully for the movie industry in general. Tom Hanks in his letter to Mohamed Diab stated that “CLASH will go great lengths to enlighten many”, so let’s hope it does.