CLASH (إشتباك)

The Egyptian revolution of 2011 began on January 25. Less than one month later, President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and handed the leadership of the country over to the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces. One year later, Mohamed Morsi, the first Islamist elected head of an Arab state, became Egypt’s fifth president. The revolution was far from over.

Clash picks up two years after Morsi has been dismissed from office, on one particularly hot summer day in Cairo during a violent protest with the military rounding up demonstrators and throwing them in paddy wagons. Here, director Mohammed Diab stages his entire film.

This prison on wheels traps pro-army supporters, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a few bystanders inside a metal-encased sweat-box as they plea for humanity, help, and release. Inside, they bicker about whose side is at fault, which sports team is better, and how the press should or shouldn’t cover the revolution. There are no friends, only enemies. No compassion, only revulsion.

Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which followed a group of World War II survivors after their ship sunk, Clash’s confined location exploits each character’s weakness and pettiness, giving the viewer a front-line experience of the multitude of conflicts that ran through the streets during the summer of 2013. Diab furthers this experience by keeping the camera inside the paddy wagon, reminding the viewers that as the prisoners go through this hell, so must we. Now streaming on Kanopy and Netflix.

The above review first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 24, No. 30, “Ushering in a great era for film.”