Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Shame of thrones

Soha Hesham is disappointed in screenwriter Mohamed Amin Radi and director Khaled Marei’s third contribution to Ramadan TV

Al-Ahram Weekly

The year before last, the TV duo Mohamed Amin Radi and Khaled Marei took the television scene by storm with their debut series Niran Sadiqa (Friendly Fire), a gripping and complex realistic drama that felt unprecedented in terms of suspense. Last Ramadan they capitalised on their success with Al-Sabaa Wasaya (The Seven Commandments), a more fantastical but somewhat less effective series. This year they present Al-Ahd (The Testament), pure fantasy, and in the first few episodes they did attract viewers, albeit fewer than Al-Sabaa Wasaya’s.

Set in an unknown place and time not unlike a premodern, Thousand and One Nights-like Upper Egypt, the series opens – shockingly – with the murder of three significant characters by their children, who want to take over their positions of power. With the help of her brother in law Gomar (Sherine Reda) prepares to kill her husband so that she might rule her kafr (or “hamlet”), one of three under the control of the extended family Al-Deeb: Kafr Al-Qalaa (the Citadel), Kafr Al-Neswan (the Women) and Kar Nattat Al-Heit (the Joker). She does not realise that her son can see and hear her and his uncle, whereupon he flees the kafr. Meanwhile Estamanoha (Salwa Khattab), an old woman swathed in mystery and the paranormal, is hiding the original Testament whereby the place is governed. Its guardian, she can tell the future by reading the seeds of dates eaten by her grandchild, and so when she finds out she will be attacked – someone is planning to steal the Testament from her, to gain the ultimate authority – she too flees to the nearest kafr.

In the second episode the vivid murder of one matriarch (Sawsan Badr) by her daughter (Hana Shiha) sets the tone. A fake Testament is being drafted to appease the people, for each kafr is already in turmoil... But before the third episode is up, viewers and critics realise to what extent Al-Ahd is a rehashing of HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on David Benioff and D B Weiess’s adaptation of George R R Marin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The tropes lifted from Game of Thrones are endless: Gomar’s son growing up away from her in the company of snakes; a girl who must present herself as a boy to survive the power games and rule (she grows up to be the least convincing male in television history, played by Ghada Adel); a lord’s daughter heading the guard (Kenda Aloush); a man who keeps a whole kafr of women to himself; a fanatical sect seeking to humiliate nobles...

Like the duo’s previous two works, the script is bloated but the drama remains superficial and the characters seemingly isolated from one another. Marei does create an atmospheric and eerie fantasy world – also more than occasionally reminiscent of Game of Thrones – but the fact remains that Radi has produced we are left with an unconvincing copy of a western production. The one thing that this duo was hailed for two years ago, originality, is completely compromised. Even the opening credits are lifted from John Fusco’s Marco Polo (2014), starring among others the Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

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