Excuse My French
Thursday 9th October, 2.45pm – VUE5
Sunday 19th October, 9pm – Ciné Lumière
Saturday 11th October, 6.30pm – Ritzy
Thank goodness for the London Film Festival. Showcasing the best of world cinema, it brings to the UK alternative and provocative storylines to those usually released by the mammoth Hollywood conveyor belt industry.
Egyptian director Amr Salama has created a new feature film that tackles religious segregation. Using unknown child actors, including rising child star Ahmed El Dash who plays Hany, the film was originally rejected by the censorship office for four consecutive years. As a result, the radars went up and Excuse My French propelled to the foreground, topping the Egyptian box office and igniting the interest of film buffs across the world.
So why the controversy? Well, Salama dares to tell a story about Christian/Muslim relations through the eyes of schoolboy Hany, raising concerns that it might damage Egypt’s public education image. Born to a middle-class mother and father, Hamy is fortunate enough to attend a private school in Egypt. But everything changes when his father meets a sudden death and his mother, with Hamy’s blessing, is forced to send him to a public school. There, he struggles to be accepted. After all, Hamy is different – he has had a privileged background, is more grounded and shows more promise than anyone else. The only thing that seems to help is that his classmates mistakenly take him for being Muslim. If only they knew the truth.
What Salama does is interesting. He turns grown-up themes of religious segregation, social integration, sexual harassment, assault and Egyptian public schools into a subtle, humorous and somewhat childish take. The result is that although we never experience the depth or gravity of the themes at the heart of this film, the significance lingers subtly on our consciousness, reinforced through stylised filming. Long shots and perfectly composed still frames reflect a model life, as if shooting an ad for a perfect family, and as we move into disorderly playground and school scenes the shots become more rapid. The overall effect is to distance the adult viewer from Hany’s young narrative eyes. After all, children often see things differently.
Blending pertinent adult themes with a childlike, comedic narrative, however clever, has its drawbacks: lacking psychological complexity and development, characters are rendered a curve short of well-roundedness. And there’s a lack of intensity that could so easily been injected into such an interesting topic. Nonetheless, you have to admire Salama for standing his ground for so many years and bringing to light relevant social taboos and young, previously unknown talent in an accessible medium.
Excuse My French is released in Vue5 on 9th October 2014.
For further information about the BFI London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Excuse my French here: