A brave portrayal of conflict and suffering epitomised by the events of one day in Cairo.



Watching this deeply felt work by the Egyptian director Mohamed Diab (one which he co-wrote with his brother Khaled) I found myself thinking for quite different reasons of two other films. Clash is set in Cairo and portrays just one day in the period following the ousting of President Morsi in the summer of 2013. Thus the clash of this film's title is between the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and the supporters of the military on the other and tragically this conflict and violence continues even to this day. Given that context, it is inevitable that Ibrahim El Batout's film Winter of Discontent made in 2012 should come to mind since it grew out of the original protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in January 2011. It was August 2013 when that film reached us but, with further upheavals in Egypt making headlines at the time, there was an extraordinary sense of topicality in El Batout's documentary-style drama.


In taking up the story, Clash again uses actors but deals in realities. Diab not only concentrates on a single day in 2013 but chooses to set his film inside a police truck into which people arrested during protests are herded and kept (there is a passing reference to the fact that the jails are full). The first two to be seized in this way are journalists for the Associated Press, Adam (Hany Adel) who is part American and part Egyptian and his colleague Zein (Mohamed El Sebaey). Others subsequently seized include members of the protesting Muslim Brotherhood but, not surprisingly, yet others taken claim to be innocent passers-by. Even children are amongst those arrested. Indeed one mother (Nelly Karim) actually seeks out this fate in order to rejoin her husband and her young son who are already in the truck.


Although we share with these people the view through the windows and doors of the truck, the film remains inside with them throughout its length. That fact brings to mind the brilliant war drama Lebanon (2009) which was set exclusively in a tank. For a while this heartfelt film feels as powerful Lebanon did, but that film concentrated movingly on fewer characters and had a greater sense of plot development. With so many bundled into the one police truck, Clash does seize the chance to bring out the tensions between victims with opposing views and outlooks, but these believable individuals can only be sketched in. Furthermore, when the crucial underlying common humanity is suggested the expression of this important theme can feel rather trite, as in the scene in which two contrasted men are shown to share a love for dogs. However, the major drawback here lies in the fact that the only real development to be found is a stylistic one: what has started out naturalistically develops by the close into something that seems symbolical of the situation. Ultimately, indeed, the film's portrayal of conflict suggests a world that is in chaos and lacks any possibility of change. Clash is well made and desperately sincere, but it is also utterly depressing. 




Cast: Hany Adel, Nelly Karim, Tarek Abdel Aziz, Ahmed Malek, Ahmed Dash, Husni Sheta, Aly Eltayeb, Amr El Kady, Mohamed Abd El Azim, Ashraf Hamdy, Mohamed Tarek, Mohamed El Sebaey.


Dir Mohamed Diab, Pro Moez Masoud, Mohammed Hefzy and Eric Lagesse, Screenplay Khaled Diab and Mohamed Diab, Ph Ahmed Gabr, Pro Des Hend Haidar, Ed Ahmed Hafez, Music Khaled Dagher, Costumes Reem Al Adi.


Film Clinic/Sampek Productions/Acamedia Pictures/Arte/NiKo Film/Pyramide-Arrow Films.
98 mins. Egypt/France/United Arab Emirates/Germany/USA. 2016. Rel: 21 April 2017. Cert. 15.