Friday, February 4, 2022

Newton's Cradle

Netflix has been reaching out further to get more films to fill your time.  This year I have noticed more films in Arabic, from different countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan and Egypt.

One very interesting choice was "Newton's Cradle" (2021) from Egypt a series that is partially filmed in the United States.  When many of us think of Egypt we think of the fascinating ancient history or of more recent riots.  There are to be sure many differences, but the series depicts a more modern Egypt and one where its citizens do not feel out of place in America.

One of the first things that will strike you is the difference in size between the central characters, Hana and Hazem with him looking to be about double her size.  We see her approaching a U.S. customs agent with a voice in her ear which is coming from Hazem in Egypt.  With a few mishaps she gets through, but her difficulties are just beginning.  The reason she is there is because she finally got pregnant and the two of them agreed it would be an advantage to have their child born in America to gain instant citizenship.  Right wingers are upset about that fact. 

She still had several months to go before she is due.  In that time she meets interesting people who rescue her from immediate problems.  One is a very modern young man who is Egyptian and introduces her to a different lifestyle that is offensive to strict Muslims.  Another is much more polished and powerful, Moaness a successful business man with interests in both America and Egypt.  

The birth is premature and a bit scary, common enough in many films, but her life changes by her reaction.  She becomes hysterical and fearful.  The nurses and the doctor make a big decision and tell her at one point that the baby is dead and later that it is in an incubator (true).  She seeks help from Moaness who with help from a lawyer is able to bring the baby back to its mother.  

A few complications ensue.   Her husband has had difficulties contacting her and forms an opinion that she has been leading an immoral life and right in the middle of her birthing pain divorces her over the phone.  Meanwhile Moaness who is already married decides this is an opportunity to marry a very desirable woman.  He intervenes to allow her to maintain a relationship with her new son by using scripture from the Qu'ran to marry him.  This of course exacerbates her relation with Hazem.

Hazem is having his own complications.  He manages an apiary (on Hana's advice) and it is attacked.  Hazem is able to get the bees to attack the actual marauder to kill him.  Strangely the wealthy landlord, Badr decides to make Hazem a partner and encourages him to develop organic honey.  He then forces Hazem to develop honey from opium plants.  His motive is different than you might suppose.  

Meanwhile Moaness wants to consummate his marriage, but Hana stalls.  They both end up in Egypt to try to persuade Hazem to legally finalize the divorce.  If this sounds complicated there are more involving pride, love, betrayal, etc.

One of the last lines of the series paraphrased is "We will have to learn to know each other again"  Humans are strange creatures.  Part way it was upsetting to hear three different characters curse and scream at one another with words that would be hard to take back.  It seemed unreal, but upon reflection I realized it was all too real.  The two men, Moaness and Hazem were both rational, but both wanted to control Hana and both at different times felt betrayed.  Hana also felt betrayed while doing what seemed necessary to keep her son.

On the whole this is a worthy series filmed in America and Egypt with most chapters including scenes from both countries.  You will see a contrast between cultures, but also appreciate the interaction going on.  It consists of 30 episodes each under one hour.  The cast is excellent as so obviously is the crew that put this complex film together.

Tamer Mohsen, was director, writer and involved with production.  From the age of 7 he was fascinated by marionettes and later was able to do an award winning play using marionettes.  He graduated from an engineering university and worked that field for 7 years before pursuing his dream.  

Adam Horner, was a producer in America.  He was an Australian actor before getting involved in international films.   

Tamer Karawan also studied engineering, but then studied music in London.   He wrote his first score in 1998 and has gone onto do music for 80 films.  The score for this film supports the mood.

Mahmoud Youssef handled the cinematography.  Emad Maher and Wael Farag were editors.

Mona Zaki played the lead, Hana with perhaps the most demanding role.  She was rational, but could get hysterical and do a range of emotions.  Winner of many awards in the Middle East.

Muhammad Mamdooh played Hezem.  A simple proud man, but not stupid. 

Sayed Ragab played Badr, a wealthy man who at first tried to shut down Hezem's operation and then coerced him into being a partner and getting involved with opium.  

Muhammad Farrag played Moaness, a wealthy Egyptian in America who like the devil could quote scripture.  The most worldly and sophisticated of the characters.  But he too could lose his temper.

Watching this over a few weeks I had mixed feelings, but in the end I was very impressed.  It has suspense, romance with a very professional production values.

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