Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

No treasure

Soha Hesham was deeply disappointed by the Eid’s biggest production

No treasure
No treasure

Of all the Eid films this month – Tarek Al-Eryan’s Al-Khaliya (The Cell), Sameh Abdel-Aziz’s Kheir wi Baraka (Blessings), Ahmed Abdallah’s Shantet Hamza and others – none was touted as much as Al-Kenz (The Treasure). A huge production directed and conceived by Sherif Arafa with a screenplay by Abdel-Rehim Kamal, it promised period sets and an incredibly stellar cast: Mohamed Saad, Mohamed Ramadan, Hend Sabri, Haitham Ahmed Zaki, Amina Khalil, Sawsan Badr, Ruby and Hani Adel. It also promised an engrossing 165 minutes. And it failed to deliver even a coherent narrative, let alone any justification for its cost.

The film opens with the brief return to Luxor of a young man, Hassan Beshr Al-Katatni (Ahmed Hatem) to sell his father’s house and leave. Hassan has been studying Egyptology in Europe since his uncle Mustafa Al-Katatni (Haitham Ahmed Zaki) rushed him away from their hometown because he was targeted for assassination – it is not clear why. While in his father’s house, Hassan is introduced to a hidden treasure of papyri and videos by an old servant, Kadem. And so the film divides into three intersecting storylines each with its period setting: the Mameluk-era story of the popular resistance hero Ali Al-Zaibaq (Mohamed Ramadan) and his archenemy Salah Al-Kalbi, who killed Ali’s father Hassan Ras Al-Ghoul; the ancient Egyptian story of Queen Hatshepsut (Hend Sabri), who rules through her half-brother and husband and survives numerous conspiracies; and the pre-1952 Revolution story of Beshr Al-Katatni (Mohamed Saad), a police officer who takes advantage of his own brother’s addiction in order to gain promotion. The latter includes interesting insights into the secular-religious debates of the time; it features Amina Khalil as a nightclub singer and the comedian Ahmed Amin as  a cabaret performer at the same venue. In all three mini-films, however, the same story of love and intrigue unfolds; this is underscored by the appearance of Abdel-Aziz Makhyoun as a different but practically identical character in each.

Needless to say, over and above the question of reality vs. imagination, which is how the film posters promoted The Treasure, this is a project with tremendous potential. But beyond the occasional display of visual prowess – sometimes copying Game of Thrones, it has neither fully-rounded characters nor meaningful plots. Indeed it is interesting to consider it in the context of Arafa’s long and often impressive career, with such hits as Al-Daraga Al-Talta (The Third Degree, 1988) starring Ahmed Zaki and Soad Hosni and Al-Erhab Wal Kabab (Terrorism and Kabab, 1992) starring Adel Imam as well as the action thriller Mafia (2002) with Ahmed Al-Sakka. The acting is inadequate despite the individual actors ability, with Mohamed Saad devolving into his trademark character El-Limbi and making the audience laugh during a serious scene. Likewise the set and costume design (by the otherwise excellent Onsi Abu-Seif and Malak Zulfikar, respectively) leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the ancient Egyptian setting where the cheapness of the materials and the inauthenticity of the art are obvious. Pharaonic and Mameluk clothes and accessories are just not convincing. Even Hisham Nazih’s powerful music is often misplaced and heard in the wrong dramatic context. But nothing was more disturbing than the announcement at the end that this was part one, with the suggestion that the previous 165 minutes were not enough to uncover the treasure.

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