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El Bernameg: Bassem Youssef's Political Satire on ONTV
The show itself starts with a disclaimer, distancing ONTV from the opinions and statements made by Youssef. So you already know you’re in for a treat.
The crux of the show isn’t his straight-faced humour, charisma and sarcasm, or even in the actual production of the show; the draw is Youssef’s unique take on and dissection of Egyptian politics. It’s difficult not to be charmed and swept away by him, and you’ll soon find yourself thinking in the same playfully sardonic way.
He is by no means a comedian, but his wit and the tongue-in-cheek methods of tackling political issues make them relatable and relevant. There are no jokes or real skits and sketches as such; Youssef’s main aim is to incite more and more political debate. He’s not afraid of confronting the most controversial issues either.
The first episodes of the show have seen Youssef address issues such as the Arab world's silence over the ongoing atrocities in Syria, wanted businessman Hussein Salem, sexual harassment, and the continuing ambiguity of the interim government. Perhaps one of the stellar moments was when Youssef tackled the controversy of Naguib Sawiris, coincidently the owner of ONTV and thereby Youssef’s boss; proving that no one is above his scathing wit.
It isn’t all just witty critique and satire, though. Youssef has featured new books on the show, and has hosted guests ranging from participants in the January 25th revolution to individuals working for the good of local communities. He also featured Bothaina Kamel, Egypt’s first female presidential candidate, as well as Essam Sultan and Cairokee. All his interviews stay true to style, and are light and entertaining.
Youssef has a very definite charisma and is obviously a hugely intelligent individual. He often peppers his show with medical knowledge to comic effect.
While the show is a must-see, it is far from your traditional Ramadan viewing. Those looking to escape in the melodrama of soap operas have some forty shows to choose from, and while this show is heavy on political and social issues, it’s a unique and refreshing alternative to the standard talk show formula.
‘El Bernameg’ is shown on ONTV daily at 7:15PM, and is repeated at 2AM, 6AM and 12PM.
He promptly charms the somewhat cynical principal Ms. Vaillancourt (Proulx), who at first is a little hesitant to his slightly mystical presence, and soon takes over the 'broken' classroom. The film’s heart also lies with the two students who were unfortunate enough to discover the body. Alice (Nélisse) is a bright-eyed, straight A student, who deals with her own troubles of an absent parent on daily basis. The tender-looking Simon (Néron) suffers a level of guilt for his teacher's demise and is a problematic student as a result.
The task at hand is one of many challenges for M. Lazhar. Nevertheless, with his own personal suffering set aside, its details slowly unravel throughout the film; he takes the kids under his caring wing and slowly starts guiding them to the truth.
Fellag's interpretation of M. Lazhar is a delightful surprise. Though slightly old-fashioned in his teaching methods, trying to get to grips on a modernised education system, Lazhar is portrayed as loyal and caring. From beginning to end, we are embraced with his warmth and affection. The same can be said for the outstanding performances by both child actors, Alice and Simon. The level of maturity and the profound strength they bring to their roles is nothing short of mesmerising.
Following his successful breakthrough comedy-drama, In Bruges (2008), writer-director Martin McDonagh is reunited with Irish bad-boy, Collin Farrell, for another crack at dark comedy.
Seven Psychopaths follows struggling Irish screenwriter, Marty (Farrell), who is experiencing every writer's nightmare – a severe case of writer's block. So far, he's only got the working title for his next film project worked out – Seven Psychopaths – but, the rest of the story isn’t so forthcoming. With nothing but a few measly ideas scribbled on scraps of paper, Marty's personal hell soon sees the writer sinking deeper and deeper into anxiety and alcoholism.
He finds encouragement in his best-bud Billy (Rockwell), who along with his partner-in-crime, Hans (Walken), makes his living in the dog-pinching business. Unfortunately, stealing dogs from their wealthy owners – and later returning them for the reward money – goes awry when Billy nabs a dog belonging to murderous gangster, Charlie (Harrelson).
Before long, the fictional story of Seven Psychopaths – the one Marty has been struggling to bring to life – becomes real and the careworn writer soon begins to live right in the middle of his own story.
Set in the seedy Hollywood hills, before moving on to the Californian desert, Seven Psychopaths is presented as a film about making a film, when in actual fact, it's a film about not making a film; the obstacles to success are not overcome and there is no triumphant final act bringing all of the elements together. Although the story's unusual premise offers a few rather amusing moments, there isn’t much else to hold onto.
Seven Psychopaths also feels a little too self-conscious and restrained. McDonagh – just like his central character – has some serious struggles of his own; a lot of the sequences feel forced and after a banging start, the film loses momentum and withers away as it gets lost in its own self-referential pseudo-philosophy.
The film furthers its suffering by not taking full advantage of its star-studded Hollywood cast. Cameos from Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton are completely wasted and Rockwell's verbal diarrhoea is a little too much to take. On a positive note, Farrell has no problem in nailing the good-for-nothing drunk, while Harrelson and Walken deliver like the pros they are.
On the whole, Seven Psychopaths is meta-gangster film wannabe – if even that. Over-written and a little too aware of itself, the film never develops into anything more than an occasionally amusing mishmash. What starts of as an intricate narrative descends into absurdity very quickly.