Last Month I wrote that I had attended the premiere of the independent Egyptian movie ‘Heliopolis’ with a bunch of friends and my review of the movie was not a good one. Since my blog entry, the movie has been hailed as ‘One Of The Best’, hailed as artistic and original. I still stand my ground in saying that it wasn’t that good. It had GREAT potential but the storyline and purpose was lost in my opinion.

Director and Screen writer Ahmad Abdalla presented Khaled Naga the actor with a 30 page script! How can you call yourself a screen writer with a 30 page script which had many blank pages and spaces for the actors themselves to fill in? As someone who writes and authors as a passion and is seeking it as a professional career, that just jabs at my heart-strings! The dialogue of the movie was lacking greatly, there was very little depth to it. Abdalla’s reason behind it was so that the actors would be forced to be more connected with their character. When you have so many people writing and contributing to a script, you can’t expect it to stay on a clear track. An original thought and an experiment, I will credit him that. Just keep the famous saying in mind ‘too many chefs spoil the broth.’

At the beginning of the movie where Khaled is interviewing one of the few remaining Jewish residents of Heliopolis, I was intrigued and excited that the movie was going to touch upon things that people preferred to keep hidden in their closets along with their skeletons, but even that glimmer of hope fell to a sudden end. At one point I thought that was the focus of the story, then I thought it was about what Egypt or Heliopolis was like when the foreigners lived here, but then it jumped to how some Egyptians are attempting to immigrate or is dreaming of a better life abroad. It was very misleading; if that was the artistic edge to it then they get full marks!

If I was to compare this movie to another low-budget, independent movie like ‘Blair Witch Project’ there is NO comparison! Their script and idea was original and people left the movie theatre believing that people had really died. If I’m going to talk about script writing abilities then you have Sylvester Stallone who directed and wrote the script of one of the all time best movies in modern America movie history, ‘Rocky’. You also have best friends and graduates of Harvard University who started and co-wrote the script to an incredible movie ‘Goodwill Hunting’. Heliopolis doesn’t come close to either of the masterpieces mentioned.

The idea of how the lives of strangers are connected was very reminiscent of Crash and Bable. The difference was it was situated here in Heliopolis and was about people here in Egypt. Was it raw? Not as raw as it could have been, it didn’t hit home for me at all. It could have been deeper, it could have gone in to greater depth of people’s lives and how they live. The only two characters that I feel were realistic were the Jewish lady being interviewed and the soldier. That was as close to the truth the movie got.

Performance wise, in all sincere honesty Naga, Hani (lead singer of Wust El Balad) and especially Mohamed Brika were the best thing the movie had going for it.

I know you are probably thinking that I am being very harsh and insensitive but I was there in the cinema watching the movie and I saw people get up and leave because they were bored to tears. I met people outside who had seen the movie in Abu Dhabi and they said ‘once was more than enough times to watch it.’ I have to agree whole heartedly.

In conclusion, screenwriters should write a full script and not let the actors do it. A screen writer can ask for opinions but not have them write it! Create the characters and circumstances in the plot and it’s up to the actors to search within themselves or do research to be able to find a connection with the character and bring it to life on the screen. That shows the true talent of an actor and Brika definitely brought that to the screen. That is why when he was introduced to the audience he got the loudest applause and cheer. Even the cast admit that he was.

If you have an opinion…Speak up! All I ask is for you to be honest.