Kaf El-Amar (The Moon’s Palm), director Khaled Youssef’s latest film, was released in time for the Eid film season. Eid Al-Adha, literally the Greater Eid, is the grand feast of sacrifice that is also the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The religious holiday has come to be known as well for the cascade of comedy films that hit cinema screens across the country; Kaf El-Amar, however, is no comedy.
The film follows Amar (Wafaa Amer), who, following the death of her husband, imparts to her five children their father’s dream to build a brick house. They work the land, but due to toughening economic conditions, Amar decides to send her children to Cairo in order to make enough money to fulfil their dream. She charges her eldest, Zekry (Khaled Salah) with taking care of his four brothers. From here, we begin to follow the story of how the five siblings fare in the capital.
Youssef has learned from previous mistakes, avoiding some directorial blunders. Poverty depiction has become a Khaled Youssef signature, and in this instance, it has been done with proficiency. Much attention has been given to every bit of detail, in terms of costumes, language and settings.
The most commendable element in the movie is the actors’ performances. The lines are delivered masterfully. Khaled Saleh is solid as Zekry, the eldest of the five. The four siblings played by Haitham Ahmed Zaki , Sabry Fawaz, Yasser Al Masri and Hassan El Raddad have good screen presence and deliver commendable performances.
Jomana Mourad delivers her lines competently in an Egyptian accent. Ghada Abdel Razek redeems her reputation as an actress, counteracting past performances in films like Bonne Soiree and gives an admirable performance in one of the film’s minor roles.
Kaf El-Amar is a story with underlying themes of family, leadership and poverty. It depicts how the ‘elder’ can corrupt those he is meant to lead even when he is determined to do good. A person in charge of a flock can stray and in turn cannot rule by virtue but through control.
Despite the performances, there are a few problems with the film relating to the direction and the script. Some of the script is improbable and the manner it is handled on screen does not make it believable. For example, in one scene Zekry attempts to catch up with Bakr (Hassan El-Raddad) on a highway, searching for buses bound to Libya. He ends up finding the bus, but the reality of finding a bus on the highway amidst all the traffic comes into question, considering not only the slim chances but how naively the scene was depicted. At some point the film jumps to different points in time. This is hard to follow at first, as there is no technique or filter employed to warn one of a flashback.
Most of film’s flaws are forgivable, but the largest flaw is just how bland the story is on the whole. The script fails to give characters depth, rendering them slightly one dimensional despite the performances. There are brief moments in the dialog that give characters a bit of historical depth, but not enough to bring them to life.
With so many characters, it becomes difficult to perceive any more depth to the character than their role in the story. They all have a relatively simple and direct relationship to Zekry and Amar which makes them generic and slightly less believable.
Kaf El-Amar is a film that offers insight into what poverty and crippling social circumstances can do to a family. At times, these circumstances can bring them closer, while at other times, it can force them to drift apart. It is a film well executed, but the script leaves more to be desired.
Cast: Khaled Saleh, Wafaa Amer, Ghada Abdel Razek, Sabry Fawaz, Jomana Mourad, Hassan El Raddad, Haitham Ahmed Zaki, Yasser El Masry, Horreya Farghaly
Written by: Nasser Abdel Rahman
Directed by: Khaled Youssef