DIFF ’10 Review: Six, Seven, Eight
Egyptian Mohammad Diab’s directorial venture a highlight of the year.
It was a star studded event on the Day 2 of Dubai International Film Festival as the world premiere of the Eyptian film ‘Six, Seven, Eight’ directed by writer Mohammad Diab.
After a short intro with the director and the whole cast gracing the stage before the movie, we were told about how the movie is about a rising issue in Egypt and explores the topic.
The following is my review for the movie.
‘Six, Seven, Eight’ greatly benefits from the fact that it’s about something topical and unique – rampant sexual harassment in public buses in Egypt. And the touchy topic is handled brilliantly and with masterful execution, making it a tour-de-force coming out of Egyptian cinema.
The film revolves around three women and how they are affected with sexual harassment in different ways. Fayza is a lower-middle class married lady who always avoids taking a bus to work due to the constant groping and harassment by men in the crowded vehicle. When one day circumstances lead to her riding the bus, her actions lead her to drastic measures. Seba gets harassed by a gang after a football match and the experience leads her to open a help group for victims of harassment where she finds an unexpected visitor. Nelly gets violently groped by an assailant in public and in turn launches Egypt’s first lawsuit against sexual harassment and receives an unexpectedly major backlash by society and family alike. All three women connect in unexpected ways to take an extreme stand against this pressing issue plaguing Egypt.
The problem of sexual harassment in public places isn’t unique to Egypt. In fact, it’s very common among developing countries like India and Pakistan yet no one decides to do anything about it. Personalizing such a large issue is a hard task yet the movie does a great job of three different tales dealing with different aspects of the problem. The most effective in this regard is Fayza’s story as it is the most relatable and fleshed out, thanks in no small part to a brilliant and tender performance by Bushra who not only embodies the character and her appearance, but is also a perfect entry into the story itself and works as the audiences’ eyes as we see exactly what she experiences and the details are harrowing. Her character is the most fleshed out and has a number of layers to it including how her behavior and sex life at home changes due to those events.
Screenplay is undoubtedly one of the strongest suits of the film, which is unsurprising considering director Mohammed Diab started off as a scriptwriter and this is his directorial debut. The narrative form is sound and the interconnecting storylines is handled extremely well, although the gimmick gets done with in the first act itself. As mentioned above, characterization is great across the board. Seba is a wealthy and rich woman devastated after an attack by a gang of football fans now finds that her loving husband can’t even look at her after the event. Nelly is a female standup comedian in a male-dominated industry and under the shadow of her fiancé but also is the first woman to launch a lawsuit against her plight. It’s deep and well-woven so that the actions of the characters make sense and have repercussions in the final act.
Another interesting character in the movie is the police detective who tries to connect the dots of certain events back to the main characters and the script is very clever in plotting them back logically. His character is a major source of some very good humor that balances the over-wrought tone of the movie at times and is a great respite from the main storyline. But here’s the problem with the movie too – we never really get to know the guy as deep as we do with the others. He’s a plot device for the most part and even a tragic event with him doesn’t provide maximum impact because of the way it was set up beforehand.
A minor quibble that I have with not only ‘Six, Seven, Eight’ but similar movies dealing about women issues is the fact that they paint every male character in a negative light. All husbands are negative characters that don’t understand their wives until the end of the movie. It’s like the writers decide that the only way to maximize the impact of the message is painting all male characters evil and making it a ‘black and white’ situation in order to portray women empowerment.
‘Six, Seven, Eight’ is a fine film to come out of Egypt. It’s impressive in writing and its message while not also providing the solutions and repurcussions to them. It needed to tie up a few loose ends in the final shots, but it’s a movie that will resonate with a wide audience not only because of the theme but the quality of it itself.