AFTER THE BATTLE (Yousry Nasrallah)
By Robert Koehler
It didn’t take long to find the first work in the competition that doesn’t belong there. Nasrallah is a veteran Egyptian director who makes socially minded films with blunt directness. Subtlety isn’t where he ventures, and After the Battle hammers its messages home. Since those messages are about Egypt’s semi-revolution after Tahrir Square, they could be welcome and interesting. But he chooses to couch them in a poorly conceived tale with flatly drawn characters meant to represent their classes. Reem (Mena Shalaby) is a middle-class activist and environmentalist—the closest thing in Egypt to a member of the Green Party—who becomes involved with the doings of the movie’s working class hero, Mahmoud (Bassem Samra), who was part of the group of horsemen who famously attacked Tahrir protestors as henchman for then-President Hosni Mubarek. Much of After the Battle plays like a Ken Loach movie—as if we need two Ken Loach movies in the competition—and which may partly explain why it’s here. Scenes of political debate alternate with scenes with personal interaction, but the agenda is always at play, which to have Reem understand what makes Mahmoud tick, and for Mahmoud to realize that there’s a bigger world beyond his small, rounded world of horse training and male values. Nasrallah’s camera is extraordinarily clunky, and the pacing and structure gives off the odor of commercial television. A dunderheaded finale of Mahmoud symbolically climbing one of the pyramids at Giza is, incredibly, handled with great, literal seriousness.