Films are only as good as their screenplays. Being the quintessential pillar of film industry, scripts articulate the proceedings, orchestrate the flow, and dictate the aspects of the directorial work that would flesh out the gist of every screenplay. Usually, scriptwriters tend to project their stories onto lengthy timelines and spice up their plots with a myriad of characters to manifest their motifs. However, the dexterities of movie creators culminate when their stories’ premise is set in a single day, taking place in a very few locations with a finite set of characters, where the narrative, dialogue and character profiles become the vital crux of the project.
For all movie buffs, the ultimate exemplar of such type of films would be 1958’s 12 Angry Men, which, to this very day, is still addressed as the finest one-place one-day film. While the Americans’ contributions were quite eminent in shaping out the structure of this genre, the Egyptian film industry has also had its say in enlivening it with our very own stories, acquiring it the attributes of the Egyptian society. Delving into the chronicles of our aged film industry, we scope 5 distinguished Egyptian films that had the masses zero in on their fascinating one-day scenarios.
1- Bab El-Hadid
It’s the tour de force of Egyptian cinema, the eloquent picture of the fifties and the everlasting feat of Youssef Chahine. In addition to its time-transcending tenor, 1958’s Bab El-Hadid has ably presented an unparalleled cinematic experience that excelled at several aspects, the first of which was its unnerving and unprecedented look at the psychiatric disorders of the lead character. Furthermore, it portrayed a top-notch development of its characters, whose delineation has constituted one of the finest enactments ever depicted in an Egyptian film for the iconic impersonations of Farid Shawki as the alpha male Abo Sree3, Hind Rostom as the enticing female Hanouma and Youssef Chahine as the mentally disturbed Qenawy. Last but not least, Bab El-Hadid has managed to capture the demeanors and ideologies that resurfaced during the mid-twentieth century, which have shaped out the mindsets of the ensuing generations. What had all these aspects culminate was the one-day plot of the film that infused it with palpable feelings, amplifying the jitteriness of the proceedings.
2- Been El-Sama We El-Ard
Albeit the fact that confined areas could engender anxiety for claustrophobics, such spaces did provide a fertile environment for cinematic brilliance as has happened in Been El-Sama We El-Ard. Set in a faulty elevator during a blazing summery period in 1960, the film delves into the personas of the various strata of the Egyptian society through its scrutiny of the trapped characters, whose interactions highlight the social alterations that ensued on the back of the political transitions of that era. As they struggle to work their way out of the elevator, the film chronicles the prevalent traits of the 1960s as they materialize on the characters on their quest for absolution, not to mention the pros of its abridged timeline that offers much room for the thorough exhibition of the characters’ profiles as they join forces to endure such situation.
3- Hayah Aw Moot
Breaking the norms of conventional thrillers, the year 1954 has introduced a new format for such genre with the release of Hayah Aw Moot. Starring Emad Hamdy and Youssef Wahby, the film takes place in the jam-packed districts of Cairo as it follows the venture of a young girl, who takes it upon herself to roam the streets of the capital all alone to get her hands on a prescribed medication for her ailing father. However, things go awry when the pharmacist she seeks mistakenly mixes up improper substances, yielding a fatal chemical mixture, which kicks off his quest for locating the father before he ingests what could lead to his death. The film examines a different angle in regards to the buildup of suspense for it utilizes familial bonds and societal hardships as the building block for its gripping atmospheres. With no outlaws, gunslingers or car chases, Hayah Aw Moot is a remarkable one-day endeavor that elicits tautness as we unite with the main characters, trying to follow the trails of the feeble father, Ahmed Ibrahim, in the crammed city of Cairo before it’s already too late.
4- El-Erhab W El-Kabab
Throughout all intervals, filmmakers tend to break new grounds and clinch new attainments through their artworks. Such diligence has enriched the Egyptian cinema with a myriad of films that only got better with age for they capture the attributes of their time, which had them stand out and become superior to all the titles of their interval, and what’s a better depiction of the nineties than Adel Emam’s El-Erhab W El-Kabab? After things go terribly out of hand at Mogama3 El-Tahrir on the back of its employees’ indolence, the film scopes the predicament of our protagonist, who gets into hot water after being framed for hijacking the aged governmental building, shedding light on the ups and downs that impacted the Egyptian society at conclusion of the twentieth century. Apart from the opening 10 minutes, the film entirely takes place within the perimeter of Mogama3 El-Tahrir during a 24-hour timeline, showcasing the finesses of its cast.
Following the steps of the renowned sibling directors who have made it big in American cinema and TV America as the Coen and Duffers brothers, the Diab brothers are upping the antes in Egypt, notching plenty of acclaims. Their films speak of their merits with regards to the scripting and directorial work, which culminated with 2016’s Eshtebak, manifesting sublime artistic dexterity. Set entirely in a police truck, the film tracks the sufferance of some detainees who were seized on the back of 2013’s political revolts, highlighting the dissimilarities between their thoughts, beliefs and social backgrounds as they interact with one another in a confined 8-meter space. For its artistic and technical feats, Eshtebak has attained sheer prominence for it captures the bitter divisiveness that prevailed during that period, adorned by fine artistries and solid acting performances. For that, it became one of the finest Egyptian films of the 21st century, and one of the best one-day flicks.