The latest action film to hit Egyptian cinemas is Welad El Am (The Cousins) – a story of espionage, love and betrayal directed by Sherif Arafa. Salwa (Mona Zaki) realizes her husband , Ezzat (Sherif Mounir), is really Daniel, an Israeli undercover spy who kidnaps her and their children to Israel to start a new life (the title, in case you missed it, is also a play on the common reference to the historic relation between Muslims and Jews). Mostafa (Karim Abdel Aziz), the Egyptian version of Daniel, is a local spy who has been after Daniel and his posse for a while. When Salwa begs for help from a man in the street in Israel, her story reaches the Egyptian authorities and Mostafa is sent to collect information on Daniel and rescue Salwa.
And so the story begins, a twisted web of conflicts of interest; Mostafa’s hatred of Israel mixed with his need to do things correctly, and Salwa’s desperation to leave mixed with her sincere belief that Daniel loves her. The subplot involves Dareen, the Palestinian potential suicide bomber and the Egyptian woman who befriends Salwa in order to keep an eye on her. The plot is surprisingly clever, and the direction and cinematography are evidence of the leaps and bounds Egyptian cinema has made recently.
The theater was packed with a curious and seriously impressed audience. Comments included "Where was this shot?" and "How did they pull that off?" and the final scene brought on spontaneous applause.
A markedly skinnier Mona Zaki delivers a strong performance as Salwa. Her years of experience have definitely given her recent character portrayals more depth and strength, and this movie is no exception. Sherif Mounir and Karim Abdel Aziz have upped their ability for movie combat although the choreography of the fight scenes could have been more effective.
Perhaps the only unexpected and unnerving aspect of the film is Mostafa’s obsession with Salwa’s love for Daniel. After an 8-year marriage, it seems normal that she would believe Daniel loved her, but this belief, and the effect it has on Salwa’s decisions, drives Mostafa crazy. Yet it is obvious that Mostafa is not interested in Salwa, making his reactions to her emotional state misplaced.
All in all, a leap for Egyptian action cinema and a movie worth watching.
Film’s official site: http://www.egyfilm.com/films/2009/weladelam/