Ra’s El Sana (2020): to watch or not to watch?Ra’s El Sana (2020)
At the end of this week lays the most anticipated day of the year. Maybe you haven’t made any plans for New Year’s Eve yet or maybe you’ve had your plans bolstered weeks in advance. Whether you have a long night of partying planned or a cosy gathering with your favourite people, everyone cares about those precious moments that signal the passing of a full cycle around the sun. A movie that attempts to capture those exciting moments between the many social layers of our society is Ra’s El Sana (2020), written and produced by Mohamed Hefzy.
Ra’s El Sana is an anthology movie that takes place on New Year’s Eve of 2010. We suspect that the reason behind choosing that specific year is to avoid any run-ins with censorship since the film is essentially a harsh social and economic commentary. Mohamed Hefzy has never been known to shy away from both the good and the bad things that define Egyptian society. A quick glance at his filmography, both his writing and producing ones, would easily show how familiar is he with interesting and gritty stories. Ra’s El Sana is no different in that regard. We believe Hefzy wrote and produced it to express his contempt for two different worlds that seem to exist side by side in our society.
The movie’s stories take place in an unnamed gated community somewhere on the coast of the Red Sea where a group of the elite and rich have decided to spend their NYE. It’s also where a lot of the movie’s characters, who are not fortunate enough to only be there on holiday, make a living in various ways. The two characters we mainly follow around are Kamal, a drug dealer played by Eyad Nassar, and Sherif, a spoiled Biotechnology graduate played by Ahmed Malek. These two characters are forced to spend the rest of the night together when Sherif leaves his girlfriend at a party with his best friend to drop off the money that his best friend owes Kamal. Sherif goes along with Kamal to meet his different clients, and he recognizes some of them. Along the run of the movie, various characters emerge in a variety of situations and from vastly different backgrounds. A recently-widowed father looks for quick money on a lucrative night. A recently-divorced woman flies back to Egypt following a scandal. A masseur is trying to convince his employer not to give his sister the night shift. All of these characters are somehow linked to the two main characters and help bring the full story together in a climactic end scene. They also serve to highlight the different moral codes and priorities present in different social circles.
Regardless of the events that lead them to their current situation, which are not as believable as one would hope, Kamal and Sherif start finding more in common than they initially realized, and this is where the movie starts getting interesting. Their conversations mainly revolve around class and morality, which helps them analyse their respective current situations. They bond over gender-rage and express their masculinity together with complete compassion, where Kamal’s lack of shame regarding his masculinity and being naked of “European open-minded etiquette” encourages Sherif to let go and embrace his masculinity freely. Although watching these two characters bond is as entertaining as it is heart-warming, toxic masculinity will always be a huge part of gender expression when it comes to Egyptian men. The traits Sherif embraces are definitely hypocritical in their nature. For example, he condemns his sister for buying drugs from the same drug dealer he’s been following around the whole night. The main point that the movie, and by default Hefzy, seems to be trying to drive is that right and wrong are not defined by class and economic status. It seems to be trying to confirm the belief that everyone should eventually settle back into the default status quo set by our traditional society. The fault in that discourse, or rather the way the movie chose to handle it, is that it is only applied to matters of gender and sex to specifically reclaim manhood in a toxic way that doesn’t address the inherent hypocrisy of those traditions.
The acting in Ra’s El Sana is very solid, and the script is as entertaining as it is often relatable. Ahmed Malek specifically excelled in his role as the fish out of water who adapts quickly to his new environment. He adds certain nuances to his character that were endearing and intriguing at the same time.
All in all, the movie is definitely worth the watch especially as we come closer to the most anticlimactic night of the year. Stay safe and happy new year!