Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Rihana’s revenge

Salonaz Sami does Kafr Delhab

Kafr Delhab
Kafr Delhab

As an avid fan of  Paranormal Activities-type horror, I’ve often regreted the dearth of such programmes in the Arab world. Produced in 2011, Doors of Fear starred Amr Waked as journalist Adam Yassin, whose specialty was folk tales of horror. Last year The Witch of the South told the story of a girl, Roh, in contact with spirits and demons. Both were successful, but neither worked as well as director Ahmad Nader Galal’s Kafr Delhab, written by Amr Samir Atef, whose first five episodes were viewed over three million times on YouTube alone. A 20 thousand-fan Facebook Page keeps up with each episodes developments, with no end of discussion and commentary. Conjectures about Saad being Rihana’s brother got so out of hand they prompted Youssef Al-Sherif, the star, to tweet, “Although I don’t like to comment on my shows while they are being aired, I will make an exception: Saad is not related to Rihanna in any way.”

Starring Al-Sherif as the physician Saad, who on moving into a haunted kafr or hamlet named Delhab – the name of a sea demon which lives in the nearby lake – uncovers the story of Rihana (Walaa Al-Sherif), a peasant girl who was raped and killed violently and whose spirit won’t rest as long as the culprits are free. Set at an imaginary time that recalls 19th-century fashions in rural Egypt, the series manages to keep viewers on their toes. And no wonder it has proved popular. It layers fantasy over a social and political message about an oppressed society controlled by the head guard (played brillantly by Hadi Al-Gayyar) along with the village’s judge and its two richest merchants, Hamdan Al-Sharqawi (Abdel-Rehim Hassan) and Baraka Al-Beheiri (Sami Maghawri); the sons of three of those four were involved in Rihana’s murder. It also emphasise the fact that fear is destructive regardless of its source. Every episode is like a short movie filled with details and surprises. And while Al-Sherif’s fan base may have contributed to the series’ success, it is important to note that every element of the production is spot-on: Engy Alaa’s costumes, the filming locations in Siwa and the Media Production City’s Nubian village and Hassan Abu-Gabal’s masterful soundtrack.

Another element that enriches the plot is the little girl Safia (Donia Said, who attracted attention with her role in the Magdy Yaqoub Hospital ad last year). Like Hend (Shar Al-Sayegh), Safia is possessed and used by Rihana to communicate with Saad. This is an effective use of a common and often crucial horror trope: the presence of a child or children. The theme of a tormented spirit seeking revenge, perhaps most famously exemplified in The Ring (2002), has driven commentators to compare Rihana to Samara, espcially since it too makes extensive use of the flashback technique. Kafr Delhab may not live up to its American counterparts, but it is a huge step forward for the genre. With a notice in the opening credits indicating that no animals were harmed in the filming of the series, Kafr Delhab even respects animal rights. Despite the occasional technical slip – the cameraman who could be seen in Episode 10 – the one true drawback is the use of contemporary Cairo dialect in place of what might’ve been a more stylised or appropriate language. Yet the fact remains that in a sea of drama and comedy, Kafr Delhab is an invigorating breath of fresh air. 

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