Inspired by a real event , Clash takes place almost entirely in a riot van during a demonstration in Cairo after the removal of President Morsi in 2013.
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★★★★ review by Martin Samy on Letterboxd
There has been much anticipation and controversy preceding the theatrical release in Egypt with several rumors that it will get censored or not released at all and a reporter on National TV called the director a "traitor" and an "anarchist who only focuses on the bad aspects of Egyptian society to capitalize on them." But although it's the most political film to be released in Egypt after the revolution ,in a market dominated mostly by comedies and Hollywood blockbusters, it comes off as mostly apolitical.
Clash is the second feature film for writer/director Mohamed Diab taking place in early July 2013 after president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the army and many people took off to the streets either to celebrate or protest. Starting in an empty police car of about eight meters square which soon gets filled with different people arrested in the protests ranging from an American/Egyptian reporter to revolutionaries and Muslim Brotherhood supporters to a group of young men who had nothing to do with it all except that they happened to be walking by.
Tensions arise and we start to see the sheep mentality of both the Muslim Brotherhood members who only talk to each other and refuse to stand next to the others and that of the policemen who refuse to give the arrested water as they were not "ordered" to.
But the movie doesn't focus on their political affiliations and portrays them as only humans. We see the revolutionary nurse helping a wounded M.B member. They sing, they share their memories during the Arab Spring revolution. The short running time may not allow to dig deeper into the characters but I think it focuses more on living the experience by confining our POV inside the car during the whole movie making us feel as hopeless and suffocated as those trapped who aren't even allowed to pee and instead are shown how to do it in a bottle.
The dialogue sometimes seems a little childish and some things felt like they were thrown in just to increase the running time as the argument between Mans and his friend who found out that Mans is sending romantic messages to the his sister.
The clash scenes between the police and the protestors were masterful and showing them only through the car windows makes them seem even more colossal giving a real feeling of the chaos. The ending was cinematically beautiful with the green lasers all over the place. Although the ending may seem a little unsatisfying to some (including me at first), I think it's the perfect reflection of the current thinking in Egypt.
After The Revolution in 2011 during the Arab Spring, everyone, especially the youth, started thinking of his own utopia and were looking forward to a "New Egypt", only to watch their dreams evaporate as they saw the same mistakes being repeated again, their political leaders betraying them, giving them only false promises and sweet talk. As I am writing this now, the economy is at its lowest with the rich/poor gap widening gradually, the budget for health and education dwindling, the political arena is filled with the same faces or new faces with the same mindset of the old regime. Censorship touches everything and there have even been talks to censor the Social media. They can't be blamed for losing hope ,abandoning their dreams and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. For them, there is only darkness-nothing else.
★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Never again will I pity myself for my parents not letting me pee during long road trips when I was younger. In all seriousness though: terrifying, tremendous, transportative.
★★★★½ review by Raul Marques on Letterboxd
A towering achievement in crafting an immediately enthralling microcosm of a literal and sociopolitical battlefield that's as straightforward as is intricately developed. Confining characters in a single location is an eminently traditional screenwriting approach that can often have the side effect of overly stagnating both the action and the visuals of a certain movie, but that couldn't be further from the executed here. Its positively unrestrained utilization of colors and music, particularly later in the film, only heightens the relentless poignancy of the script. One of the year's best and most relevant.
★★★★★ review by Ziad El Shal on Letterboxd
this movie will go places .. i don't know where .. but places!
★★★★½ review by Elvispolonius on Letterboxd
On paper, a full-length feature set within the confines of the back of a riot van sounds like a tough sit. It's a huge surprise, therefore, to discover that it's among the most vigorous, compelling and visually indelible films of the year.
The allegory of the set-up works like a dream, mashing together different, mainly opposing sections of society in a pressure-cooker space and having their collisions play out.
Diab's real skill in this respect is going beyond mere political or religious skirmishes in the dialogue, and using a richer palette of humour, violence and the conflict between ideological intransigence and basic human empathy; in one instance, a wounded man aggressively rejecting help because he won't be touched by a woman.
The big surprise is the visual scope of the film, with remarkable tableaux of the civil war being fought on the streets viewed through the van's tiny grilled windows. These sequences become most breathtaking after dark when the use of green laser pens gives the battles something of the insane psychedelia of Apocalypse Now.
What stays in the mind is the sheer energy of the filmmaking. Dazzling stuff.
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