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Ramadan Preview: Al Gama’a

Ramadan Preview: Al Gama’a
    written by
    Haisam Abu-Samra

    Having
    built his entire career on being a vocal adversary to the Muslim Brotherhood, seasoned
    writer Waheed Hamed’s efforts culminate in his most ambitious and condensed
    take on the subject yet: Al-Gama’a,
    an overarching saga of the notorious group’s origin that is centred on its
    founder Hassan Al Banna.

    Produced by
    Albatross Film Production Company–the same company that brought us Assal
    Eswed
    and Dokkan Shahata
    this TV series is bound to ruffle some feathers as it attempts to tie in the
    many social dilemmas plaguing modern-day Egypt with the
    fundamentalist stream that began with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood almost 100 years ago.

    Just the
    fact that Waheed Hamed is involved in this project (he’s best known for writing
    the script to Adel Imam’s 90s masterpiece Al-Erhabi and is definitely not shy about voicing his criticism of
    fundamentalist movements) is enough to spawn a pre-emptive backlash and put a
    huge target mark on the project. However, as the revered showbiz proverbial
    goes; there is no such thing as bad publicity.

    Not to
    prematurely jump on Al-Gama’a’s bandwagon,
    but everything that we’ve seen and heard so far about the show indicates high quality.
    Arab actors just have a natural knack for roles with gravity (they’re almost
    the equivalent of British actors in Hollywood)
    and the inspired casting of Jordanian Eyad Nassar as Hassan Al Banna is
    definitely a step in the right direction.

    The series
    features many cinema heavyweights, including Ezzat El Alaily in the role of
    Abdalla Kassab, in addition to Abdel Aziz Makhion, Salah Abdallah, Abdallah
    Farghaly and Sawsan Badr. Box office stars such as Menna Shalaby, Amr Waked and
    Ahmed Helmi make special appearances. Youssra
    El Lozy and Karim Assem also star, fresh off their collaboration on the rather
    unfortunate film Belalwan El Tabi’eya.

    The
    structure itself is an interesting mix of contemporary and historical narrative
    threads echoing one another in a cause-and-effect fashion. The choice to tell
    the story of the brotherhood through the personal story of Al Banna offers a humanising
    twist on what could have been a very dry and pondering epic. All these details
    signal a thoughtful and promising series to come.   

    Al-Gama’a‘s events start in the year 2006 when a group
    of Azhar University students perform a military show
    in the aftermath of an unfair student election. Posing the question ‘Whatever
    happened to the Egyptians?’– a question made famous by Galal Amin’s iconic
    critique of Egyptian society– the show then jumps back to the beginning of the
    last century to follow Al Banna in his early years, from his foundation of the
    Muslim Brotherhood to his assassination at the end of the series. Plans are
    already set for a second part of the series next Ramadan, which will deal with
    the group through the Nasser era.

    With a
    budget exceeding the 50-million-LE mark, Al-Gama’a
    is in the upper echelon of high production value. And while the budget is not
    inflated by the demands of star power, the period setting must have called for
    a lot of dough. Hopefully hiring a film director with a keen eye like Yassin
    means that it will all be captured on
    the screen.

    The TV
    series will be aired on local TV channels and Cairo Drama; but to catch the
    uncensored version, be sure to check it out on Al Kahera Wal Nas, which
    promises to air an unedited version. Airing time will be announced soon.  

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