AIDS is a taboo subject that Egyptian society tries to carefully avoid talking about, the movie attempts to bravely defend the rights of the patients carrying this disease, by narrating (the based on true events) story of Asmaa, who calls for her right to undergo a gall bladder’s removal procedure, her right to work, her right not to constantly worry whether someone is to find out her disease and judge her for it.
Asmaa and those around her:
Asmaa (Hend Sabry) is a simple woman from a rural origins, she relocated to Cairo with her father Hosni (Sayed Ragab) and her daughter Habiba (Fatma Adel), claiming that she is seeking a better a life, but the movie reveals the real motive behind this change by narrating her past.
Asmaa fell in love and married Mosaad (Hani Adel), she also kept her job as a seller of hand-made carpets in the village’s market, however she has gotten into a fight with another seller, and when Mosaad tried to defend her, he killed the man by accident, Mosaad was sentenced to prison, and after he got out he confessed to Asmaa that he now suffers from AIDS, he didn’t tell her how he got it, and it doesn’t matter, what mattered at this point is that there is no cure, and that he was dying, Asmaa decided not only to stay by his side, but also to have a child with him, for she believes “whoever has a child, never truly dies” nonetheless this meant that she would get infected with AIDS, and that she can’t stay in the village for everyone has shunned her.
We see Asmaa in her youth as stubborn, fierce and full of hope, she refuses to stay at home without a job and become isolated from the world around her, but with time she loses some of her ferocity and forces herself to isolation out of fear of people’s harsh prejudice, still she resists in her own way, by joining a group therapy, and working as a janitor at Cairo’s airport, she tries to raise and protect her daughter as best as she can.
As for Mohsen (Maged El Kedwany) he is the media person who wants to make a lot of noise to keep his fame and -as he puts it- making a living, by showcasing Asmaa’s problem without concealing her identity, regardless of what she might suffer in her personal life when those around her find out her disease.
The actors deserve a lot of credit for their sincere and stirring performances, especially Hend Sabry as she portrays the intricacy of the character who despite her harsh conditions, gives hope to those who need it.
Sayed Ragab succeeded in depicting the agony of a man who is forced to watch his daughter die without being able to save her or even ease her pain, he was also able to make us smile when it was required with his sense of humor, however his accent was -unfortunately- notably different from the accent of Asmaa and Mosaad.
Hani Adel’s performance was acceptable until the moment when his character becomes significantly weaker, then he starts to exaggerate by making his breathing heavy with every word he says.
Unlike Maged El Kedwany’s performance as he managed to keep the balance between what he shows of being moved by his personal gain, and his real motive which lies right beneath the surface of helping those who are in dire need of his assistance.
How we see Asmaa?
The cinematography (Ahmed Gabr) and direction (Amr Salama) has a special vision for the character, her present is ruled by the shades of blue and therefore coldness, except for her support group meetings, where despite of the shadow and darkness which reflects the anonymity of its attendants, it is warmer with an orange light which resembles a promise of safety, Asmaa’s past enjoys such warmth as well, except it is even brighter, which is fitting for a reflection of hopeful youth.
At the beginning we see Asmaa in extreme close up shots that only shows parts of her, which resembles the view of the audience who at first might only see one part of her, her disease, also the shaking movement of the camera represents Asmaa’s own fear and hesitation.
As the plot progresses, we see Asmaa as a whole, however in many shots something or someone would stay in the foreground, and even though the camera focuses only on Asmaa, the foreground limits our vision, giving us the feeling that we are spying on her life from a distance, perhaps for not daring to get close to her, or that the fear we have from this disease is still there as an obstacle.
The same technique is also used with Mohsen, maybe because some would agree with Hosni that most of the media persons: “only pretend to care about the people’s problems.” so that preconception about him, would also create another obstacle.
Even though you can clearly see signs of poverty in her surroundings, she wakes up with a head held high, with an open window that overlooks green fields and a sky, just like her hopes knows no limits, the lighting is warm like her father’s love for her.
In this shot the difference is notable, as she wakes up with a bowed head, as an obvious sign of her heavy burden, the open window overlooks a brick wall, which would remind us of her incurable disease.
In the End:
The movie carries a compassionate message about the AIDS patients’ entitlement to life without fear of needing to defend themselves against other’s prejudice, or fear of losing their rights, the camera narrates the story quite cleverly, the scenario and actors add depth and authenticity to the characters, they successfully depict their hopes, fears, and how society views them, the movie might be too tragic for some viewers to watch, but it is -most definitely- worth watching, and in my opinion deserves the rating of 9/ 10.