The Arabic word “Yomeddine” means Judgment Day. In Islam, Christianity and some other religions, it is believed that the life on earth is merely a test for each individual for the life after death. That a day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and the dead will be resurrected on the Day of Recompense. Even the pariahs of the society will be seen as equals on the day of reckoning when everybody will be rewarded by the God according to their deeds and not according to their socio-economic status in the society. It will be the beginning of a life that will never end.
In2 Infotainment India and Kahwa Entertainment (India) in association with Vkaao Gems have been bringing some rare films from world cinema to theatres across India. The latest in the series (after Shoplifters and Ash is the Purest White) is the Egyptian film Yomeddine. Directed by debutant filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky, Yomeddine is the first independent Egyptian film to be nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the François Chalais Prize.
Yomeddine revolves around a man named Beshay (essayed by Rady Gamal) who despite being cured of leprosy has remained confined to a leper colony in the Egyptian desert since childhood. But, following the death of his wife who succumbs to a mental ailment, he finally decides to embark upon a journey across Egypt in search of his true origins. He is accompanied by the young orphaned apprentice Obama (portrayed by Ahmed Abdelhafiz). What ensues is another battle for survival for both Beshay and Obama, only this time the odds are far greater as they confront a treacherous new world with all its sorrows and bounties.
Abu Bakr Shawky’s choice to use a non-actor to play the part of Beshay is certainly an inspired one. Gamal, whom his reportedly discovered while shooting a documentary about lepers about a decade back, brings a sense of authenticity to the character Beshay that can only come from true experience. I dare say even the best actor in the world cannot come close to replicating it. The moment we set our eyes on Beshay we can appreciate the honesty of his portrayal. Yes, he is enacting for the camera but in part he is also laying his soul bare in front of us. Yomeddine is a poignant human story that’s far detached from the shenanigans of commercial cinema. It is storytelling at its purest.