Cannes 2012: Simple versus simple – After the Battle

Yousry Nasrallah’s instantly derided melodrama of Egypt’s 25 January Revolution may simplify, says Nick Roddck – but at least it does so differently…

Nick Roddick
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Film of the day

Given the apparently universal dismissal of Yousry Nasrallah’s After the Battle by my UK colleagues, I take a certain perverse pleasure in making it my film of the day. Not that there’s much competition, since only three films were shown in Cannes on Wednesday (plus a couple more that were semi-secret).

Nasrallah’s film is joyously direct, sometimes to the point of crudeness, but does an interesting job in fusing Egyptian melodrama with a kind of Loachian education-through-conflict approach to the events in Tahrir Square. The story of an improbable love affair between a radical young professional woman and an illiterate horseman conned into taking part in the infamous assault on demonstrators by camel- and horse-mounted thugs, it gains its strength from its determination to undermine the simplistic scenario we have been fed from Cairo. Instead we get an uncomfortable, if unsophisticated, examination of the class implications of the situation in contemporary Egypt, where the paralysis of the tourist economy has left the inhabitants of Nazlet, who relied on taking tourists round the pyramids, destitute and confused.

I don’t usually allow a heart being in the right place to excuse over-simplified characters and contrived confrontations. But After the Battle is such a useful corrective to the romanticisation of the Egyptian revolution that forgiveness is easy. It deserves to be seen more widely.

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