Marwan Hamed: Glimpse of the Egyptian Director
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
The young Egyptian director Marwan Hamed has directed some of Egypt’s greatest films such as Yacoubian Building (2006), which was considered at the time the largest budget by an Egyptian film. Some of his other famous works are Ibrahim Labyad (2009), 18 Days (2011) about the 2011 Egyptian revolution, The Blue Elephant (2014), and several others. He has gained fame internationally through the awards he won in the Tribeca Film Festival, Zurich Film Festival, Carthage Film Festival, and others in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Who is Marwan Hamed?
Marwan Hamed, born in 1977, is an Egyptian filmmaker and director who graduated from the High Institute of Cinema in 1999. He worked as an Assistant Director in many films and commercials. He is the son of the renowned author Wahid Hamid and journalist Zeinab Sweidan. While studying, he directed two short films and several documentaries, but what stood out the most was his 40-minute directorial debut Lilly, through which Amr Waked was also first introduced as a promising talent.
Based on a short story by renowned writer Yousef Idrees, the film was a great success garnering various international awards and was screened on TV channels including the ARTE network. In 2006, Marwan directed his first feature film, The Yacoubian Building, which garnered several awards from prestigious international film festivals, making him the youngest director in Egypt to receive such high critical acclaim and prominence.
He has also worked on over 300 TV commercials for local and global brands with millions of views across TV and the Internet.
The Yacoubian Building
Premiered in Arabic in 2002 and translated to English in 2004, the book is set in 1990 around the time of the first Gulf War. It was the best-selling Arabic novel for 2002 and 2003 and was voted Best Novel for 2003 by listeners to Egypt’s Middle East Broadcasting Service. It has been translated into 23 languages. Like the novel ostensibly set in 1990 at about the time of the first Gulf War, the film portrays modern Egyptian society since the coup d’état of 1952.
The setting is downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actually exists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifying location in which most of the primary characters either live or work and where most of the action takes place. The film opens with a luff tracing the building’s history, as wealthy expatriate and Egyptian residents give way, after the 1952 coup that overthrew King Farouk and eventually resulted in the installation of Gamal Abdel Nasser as President of Egypt, to new families, and as the rooftop storage rooms are converted into living space for lower-class families. The rooftop community, effectively a slum neighborhood, is symbolic of the urbanization of Egypt and of the burgeoning population growth in its large cities in recent decades, especially among the poor and working classes. In the faded apartments of the main floors and on the building’s teeming roof.—CONFUSING
The Blue Elephant 1 & 2
The movie is built around psychiatrist Dr. Yehia Rashed (Karim Abdel Aziz), who returns to his job five years after the death of his loving wife and daughter. Filled with grief, Yehia resorts to drugs, drinking, and gambling. After he receives a warning from work for his behavior, he returns to his duties in El-Abbaseya psychiatric hospital where he is assigned 8 Gharb, a special department for mental patients who are also criminals. There, a surprise awaits him that turns his life upside down.
Yehia’s return coincides with the arrival of a former old psychiatrist friend, Sherif Al Kordy (Khaled El Sawy), a patient accused of brutally killing his wife. Hoping to find out the truth behind Sherif’s case, Yehia begins a journey of locating clues, investigating the crime scene, and gathering as much information from Sherif’s younger sister Lobna (Nelly Karim), Yehia’s first true love. While he tries to unravel the many mysteries surrounding his friend, Dr. Yehia gets sucked into a sea of hallucinations, magic spells, numbers, and demons, swirling around a tattoo parlor and a blue pill that bears the print of a six-legged elephant. For Yehia, the secrets behind the pill The Blue Elephant helped him enter the gateway of another world to uncover the demonic sources behind Sherif’s crime. The Blue Elephant received mixed reviews but performed well in the Egyptian Box-office during Eid time.
The film did not follow the formula of the recent slew of Egyptian comedies, yet it managed to win over audiences across the Arab region. The film gained up to 30 million Egyptian pounds, which is approximately 4.2 million U.S. Dollars.
The sequel released on July 25, 2019, and received positive reviews from the critics. Similar to the prequel film, it also became a successful venture at the box office. It also became the highest-grossing film in the history of Egyptian cinema collecting LE 100 million at the box office. Dr. Yehia (Karim Abdel Aziz) is now married to Lobna (Nelly Karim). A meeting with a new inmate in the psychiatric hospital flips Dr. Yehia’s life upside down, he emphasizes the fact that the death of his entire family is just only three days away. Yehia then uses the blue elephant pills in an attempt to control things and solve the puzzles he faces.
Marwan Hamed’s spectacular vision enabled him to reach fame in a short amount of time. Along with other directors of his time, they move the Egyptian visual media scene to another hierarchy in global cinema and visual arts.
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Introduction: Egyptian cinema has been the greatest in the Arab world, depicting Arab nationalism, always enhancing and improving, as well as, implementing modern techniques and visuals of theater and arts. Noureldin Mohamed, Arab America Contributing Writer, introduces one of today’s rising directors, Marwan Hamed who entered the cinematic arts scene through a great movie and has been indulging in others ever since. He has won many awards for his work as he follows in the path of his father Wahid Hamed in becoming a theater great.