Ya Ana Ya Howa: A Jekyll and Hyde Comedy
Saeed (El Shafei) is a pushover man-child. He wears bright onesies to
bed, has a Justin Bieber haircut, decorates his flat with pictures of Winnie the
Pooh and watches cartoons while drinking milk. He’s in love with a woman called
Gamila (El Baroudi) to whom he’s been sending anonymous love letters for 20
years without ever being able to pluck up the courage to introduce himself. He
reaches his breaking point when a neighbour continues her quest to spoil his
mornings and his alter ego Hazem appears. Hazem has greaser hair, smokes and
drinks, has a way with girls and won’t let anyone boss him around.
latest assignment at the paper he works for causes both him and his alter ego
to get mixed up in the robbing of a newly discovered Ancient Egyptian artefact.
When Gamila gets unwillingly entangled in the robbery in her capacity as an Egyptologist,
Saeed has to take a stand against Hazem to save the life of the woman he
This is Nedal El Shafei’s film, and comes across as a Mohammed Saad /
Ahmad Mekki hybrid. As Saeed his facial tics are really quite similar to that
of Saad. While as Hazem, he brought to mind Mekki, especially during a
choreographed dance scene to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.
El Shafei’s scenes show that he has the talent; he just
needs the right material and better direction. There were some parts where he
had to hold arguments between the two personalities and he’d switch his
mannerisms and voice at a really rapid pace. During these scenes, you could
always tell who was saying what and which identity was dominant at any given
moment. He almost morphs into another person. Despite this, El Shafei is not
helped by the direction. The director should have trusted the actor enough to
convey the switching of identities without the background animal noises and the
weird effects that were sometimes employed and which only served to give the
film an amateurish feel.
Story-wise, the film isn’t very coherent. Saeed is shown to be working
at a newspaper at the beginning of the film. The editor-in-chief gives him an
assignment and this is apparently the set up for the rest of the film. The
connection between the stolen artefact and the piece he was commissioned to
write isn’t made clear. Honestly, the latter seemed like a detail of no importance
until the end of the film when the story finally clicks.
The romantic subplot
also needed to be fleshed out more. We’re never given a reason as to why
they’re interested in one another, other than he’s been sending her love
letters for twenty years and that these letters are now a huge part of her
Despite the story’s potholes and the amateurish effects employed, Ya Ana Ya Howa should be a stepping
stone to projects that can better showcase El Shafei’s talents. Until then
however, this film offers a few entertaining scenes in the middle of an
inconsistent and rather confusing whole.