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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.
First, it’s important to establish that we cannot place the blame in its entirety on Ramez Galal for his sadistic show. A big part of the blame should fall on us, the viewers, who eagerly wait for pranks and spike the show’s ratings, even reaching the point where café owners will blast these shows on large TVs to attract customers. It’s time to admit that there’s a sadist in all of us.
The premise of the show is a guest will come in to film an episode about the World Cup on a zodiac boat out at sea. The boat malfunctions, one of the presenters dives in to see what’s wrong, and the events quickly escalate to the boat sinking with the guest and a fake shark attack.
In the episode with Rania Mahmoud Yassin and Mohamed Riad, it’s interesting to point out that the boat didn’t sink entirely, and Rania kept a firm clutch on her sunglasses in a situation where any normal person would’ve let go of his/her belongings in exchange for safety. We ignored these points at first, but after several mentions on TV and by other viewers, we couldn’t help but wonder.
The show comes with a lot of legal issues this year, of which, a case that Athar El Hakim filed against Galal, banning her episode from airing, under the pretence that the prank extremely frightened her. The truth behind that is in question, after a video of her discussing her pay for the episode was leaked. Other legal issues concerning the show include damage to marine life from planting metal poles to support the hidden cameras.
Because nothing is black and white, it’s important to admit Galal’s sense of humour and experience, especially when it’s imitated by an artist like Mohamed Fouad in his show “Fo’sh Fil Mo’askar”, a stale and completely void of humour prank show.
We have to admit, we were impressed by the shark boat Galal uses to rescue the guests. He is a smart actor who was able to establish himself within Ramadan TV and create shows that people wait for year to year.