The summer film season of 2007 will always be remembered for two main reasons: Egypt witnessing the worst box-office tumble in quite some time and the long-awaited end of the Mohammed Saad phenomenon.
Expectations were high as the lucrative summer season kicked off last May, but that soon dissolved as worn-out formulas continued to dominate nearly every major release.
The start of the season was promising with the release of Hala Khalil s acclaimed sophomore effort Kas we Laz a (Cut and Paste). Despite its minor flaws, the film is easily the best picture screened this summer. However, with dense themes, a low-key approach to filmmaking and entrenched dark tones, it became the first commercial flop of the season.
Unlike last year, all dramas failed to leave any noticeable impression on both audiences and critics. 45 Days established the fact that young actor Ahmed El Feshawy desperately lacks the star power to carry a film solely on his shoulders. El Bilyatsho (The Clown) was a commercial and critical disaster that, amazingly, fared even worse than 45 Days.
This summer s small independent effort Elakat Khasa (Special Relations), with a cast composed of new faces, was a contrived, laughable attempt to replicate the success of last year s indie smash Awkat Faragh (Spare Time).
Agamista, on the other hand, had the seeds of an interesting story about male bonding before drifting quickly into the realms of social sermons.
This summer s dramas contained none of the pressing issues that touched a chord with a wide number of diverse audiences last year. If last summer’s serious movies were rendered as an entertaining take on modern Egyptian reality; this summer s films presented a reality existing only in the directors heads.
All the aforementioned films, along with the dreadful comedies Sabaho Kedb, (Morning, Lies) and “Hoosh Elly Weke Menak (Watch Out, You Dropped Something), resulted in Misr El Arabeya production company’s worst seasons in its young history. And, by a strange twist of fate, the former box office king Mohammed Saad was the chief contributor to the company s catastrophic losses.
Mohammed Saad s Karkar wasn t only the star s lowest grossing film to date; it was a clear sign that his legions of devotees have finally deserted him. The reasons are pretty clear; Saad was an enormous fad that lasted far too long than it should have. His films were a tactless one man show too sluggish and conceited to modify his act even slightly.
Omar & Salma, heartthrob singer (and ex-felon) Tamer Hosny s latest tactless semi-musical, was the only sizable hit for El Arabeya.
On other hand, the Nasr/Oscar/Massa conglomerate sealed the competition with Adel Imam topping the box office for the second consecutive year with Morgan Ahmed Morgan. Toppling the LE 20 million mark proved, once again, that the veteran actor remains untouchable in terms of popularity.
Ahmed El Sakka scored his biggest hit to date with the Tamer Habib s scripted romantic comedy Taymour & Shafika (LE 17 million) while Ahmed Ezz enjoyed his most successful film thus far with Amr Arafa s directed thriller El Shabah (The Ghost), which grossed approximately LE 16.5 million
These three films didn t venture into new cinematic arenas. Instead, they essentially adhered to formulas of straight situational comedies; boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back modus operandi of romantic comedies; and the whodunit principles of thrillers.
The Ghost was the most ambitious of the three. It failed to rise beyond the average thriller conventions due mainly to several plot holes and unnecessary, showy and excessive visual stylistic shifts.
Heindi, another box office magnet passed his prime, saw his audiences shrinking for the fifth consecutive year with Andaleeb El Dokki (The Dokki Nightingale), grossing a measly LE 6.5 million. Unlike Saad, Heindi attempted to inject some new blood into his loathsome screen persona. However, his craving to create an important work obstructed him from achieving what seems to be an unforeseeable recovery.
The sole actual winner this season is Ahmed Helmy who, with Keda Reda (This is Satisfying), garners his biggest commercial and critical success to date, grossing LE 17 million. The offbeat comedy from the unpredictable filmmaker Ahmed Galal was the most original and entertaining film of the season.
The huge number of big productions released in the span of three months was the chief reason for the current box office slump. Theater owners felt obliged to take several hits off their screens to give way to new releases. The expected muddle eventually forced the two monopolizing corporations to withhold the rest of their scheduled releases until after Ramadan.
This delay, though, should cause another major blunder as a barrage of heavyweights will be crammed into a short, limited time frame. This overabundance of potential blockbusters is set to reproduce the same dismal revenues suffered this summer.
The production quality and proficient execution substituted the hollow content the larger part of the summer season s releases were filled with. Each one of these movies offered nothing more than an unadulterated, easy form of entertainment. There was nothing challenging about any of these films, nothing revelatory. They also lacked the inventiveness of the few, but considerable, American, British, French and South American summer releases.
Out of the numerous upcoming films, only Yousef Chanine s Heya Fawda (Is it Chaos?) is likely to cause some strong waves in the next couple of months. But it s Youssri Nasrallah s Geninet El Asmak (Fish Garden) that almost every serious film lover in the country eagerly awaits. Hopefully, it can help us to forget the sheer mediocrity of the past four months.