Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

CANNES REVIEW: 'After the Battle' Brings an Activist Romance to Tahrir Square

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 17, 2012 at 3:01AM

Now that a number of documentaries have dealt with the 2011 Egyptian uprising at Cairo's Tahrir Square -- most prominently, the scrappy "1/2 Revolution" and broadly focused "Tahrir" -- it comes as no surprise that the events have been applied to a fictional scenario, and by no less than a prominent Egyptian filmmaker, Yousry Nasrallah ("Gate of Sun"). Ably using the turmoil at Tahrir as his backdrop, Nasrallah's "After the Battle" follows a burgeoning, ill-fated romance between two characters uniquely impacted by social upheaval. The director's use of existing events to form the movie's backbone led one colleague to compare it to Haskell Wexler's "Medium Cool," which took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but the precedent applies in theory alone. Despite its admirable intentions, "After the Battle" constantly fights an uphill battle to reach its potential and never quite gets there. In the intriguing first act, Nasrallah introduces passionate advertising executive Reem (Menna Shalabi), a secular Egyptian woman deeply moved by the uprising and intent on maintaining its momentum. However, her privileged angle on the situation limits her understanding of the stakes among members of Egypt's lower classes. That perspective evolves when she encounters the downtrodden Mahmoud (Nahed El Sebai), a talented horse rider involuntarily looped into the "Battle of the Camel," a February attack on protestors in Tahrir Square that had bloody results memorialized by YouTube.
0
"After the Battle."
"After the Battle."

Now that a number of documentaries have dealt with the 2011 Egyptian uprising at Cairo's Tahrir Square -- most prominently, the scrappy "1/2 Revolution" and broadly focused "Tahrir" -- it comes as no surprise that the events have been applied to a fictional scenario, and by no less than a prominent Egyptian filmmaker, Yousry Nasrallah ("Gate of Sun"). Ably using the turmoil at Tahrir as his backdrop, Nasrallah's "After the Battle" follows a burgeoning, ill-fated romance between two characters uniquely impacted by social upheaval.

The director's use of existing events to form the movie's backbone led one colleague to compare it to Haskell Wexler's "Medium Cool," which took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but the precedent applies in theory alone. Despite its admirable intentions, "After the Battle" constantly fights an uphill battle to reach its potential and never quite gets there.

In the intriguing first act, Nasrallah introduces passionate advertising executive Reem (Menna Shalabi), a secular Egyptian woman deeply moved by the uprising and intent on maintaining its momentum. However, her privileged angle on the situation limits her understanding of the stakes among members of Egypt's lower classes. That perspective evolves when she encounters the downtrodden Mahmoud (Nahed El Sebai), a talented horse rider involuntarily looped into the "Battle of the Camel," a February attack on protestors in Tahrir Square that had bloody results memorialized by YouTube.

Forced out of his job and struggling for new work, Mahmoud instantly captures Reem's attention when she initially spots him at a horse-dancing event. After a quick hookup in the bushes, Reem learns that Mahmoud's struggles run deep, also impacting his wife and two young children.

Having established this promising set-up, "After the Battle" promptly goes nowhere in its second act, when the heartfelt Reem fights to improve Mahmoud's state of affairs as well as those of the other horsemen impacted by the events. The idea that even the apparent attackers have been abused by the Egyptian government certainly holds weight, and Nasrallah's patient screenplay competently accentuates it. "We're embarking on a new era of oppression," Reem says, refusing to celebrate Tahrir Square as anything but a baby step.

Nasrallah's focus shifts between conspiratorial investigation and the burgeoning romance between Reem and Mahmoud, but never finds the right balance between the two. "Don't turn a love story into a political affair," her friend says, and oddly enough it's the movie that takes that advice. Only in the unlikely kinship Reem develops with Mahmoud's equally frustrated young wife (Bassem Samra) does "After the Battle" make its clash-of-classes theme connect, but they have minimal scenes together.

Wandering through a series of heated debates, "After the Battle" finally reaches an enthralling representation of community activism with its climactic scene, set at an actual protest -- but by then it's too late to enliven the overall experience. To be fair, Nasrallah faces a tough proposition from the outset, when one considers the challenge of developing any kind of cogent story around the impact of the Egyptian uprising (or the Arab Spring at large), as it remains in the midst of great change but has yet to prove that true change has in fact taken place. That sense of ambiguity is exactly why "1/2 Revolution" and "Tahrir" contained such stunning immediacy and "After the Battle" fails to make the drama stick: Nasrallah never brings the same intensity to the fiery topic that its heroine regards with such extreme convictions.

Criticwire grade: B-

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Despite the topical hook, the movie is unlikely generate much of a commercial audience, although Middle Eastern and activist film festivals should welcome it.

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Reviews, After the Battle (Baad el mawkeaa), 1/2 Revolution






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More