"Nawara": Egypt's Poor are Dreaming of a Small Window Looking on Life

A Movie Represents Egyptian Disappointment after 25th January Revolution

Actress Menna Shalaby in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)
Actress Menna Shalaby in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

"Nawara": Egypt's Poor are Dreaming of a Small Window Looking on Life

Wishes are not always fulfilled, even if they are not big ones.

Do revolutions really achieve justice and a decent life? Or do they serve political purposes? Does justice exist or does it become just a desire? People protest to say that we are here, our voice is loud and we have the right to express our anger and the life we are dreaming of, but in our life today, the simple rights, for some people, are becoming dreams. In Nawara, even having water, the basic right for every citizen, cannot be achieved.

The place is Egypt, the time, post the revolution of 25th January and the story is about poverty and oppression. The dark side is that the movie introduces how Egypt's poor live in a contrasting picture with the hope and the main demands of the Egyptian revolution- to get rid of poverty and enjoy social justice and decent life!

Many movies were produced after the revolution to document what happened and its effect on Egyptian society, but Nawara came to speak differently and out of this picture. The story does not address the demonstrations, nor the pictures of the clashes and the political situation represented by the leftist parties and movements, but actually presents the sad reality of poor people in Egypt, the ones the revolution inflamed for their rights, and also the ones who paid the price.

The main protagonist is a girl named Nawara (Menna Shalaby) and her love story after the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, reviewing the impact of what was happening in Egypt during this period, her love story, and her work as a maid in the villa of one of the former ministers of the Mubarak regime.

Produced in 2015 and directed and written by Hala Khalil as her third film after Ahla al-Awqat (Best of Times, 2004), and Qus w Lazq (Cut and Paste, 2006), the other actors are Amir Salah El-Din and Mahmoud Hamida.

Menna Shalaby won the best actress award for this film from the National Egyptian Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival, the Malmö Arab Film Festival, the Catholic Center Film Festival, the Film Association Festival for Egyptian Cinema, the Tetouan International Festival for Mediterranean Cinema, and the Oran International Film Festival. Recently, she has been nominated for the international Emmy Award for her role in the crime mini-series "Every Week Has a Friday".

The rule says that the first and the last scenes of the movie should be the strongest ones because you want at first to grab the attention of the viewers to follow your story and at the end, you want to leave them with the final message with a strong expressive scene that will be stuck in their memory or make them questioning something. This actually happens in Nawara.

In the opening scene, the cadre stormed a simple girl carrying two empty jugs, with which she penetrates the streets and alleys of the slums, towards one of the public water taps, where women line up to fill the jugs with clean water. Nawara, who has a weak and strong body at the same time, carries them and walks a long distance until she reaches an old house where she lives in one of its rooms with her old grandmother. Then she heads to the hospital, where her father-in-law, ill with cancer, lies on the corridor floor waiting for a bed.

Menna Shalaby's biggest challenge in Nawara was the character and the deep feelings she should convey at the same time. She is a calm and contented girl despite all the oppression, poverty and suffering she faces, she is full of hope that one day things will improve and she will live the life she always dreamed of. A picture that includes helplessness, sorrow, and hope!

Actress Menna Shalaby in the police car after she was arrested for theft in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

Nawara moves on her daily way, from one public transport to another, sometimes behind a "microbus" or "bus" in which people miraculously stack up on a daily scam to live, before returning at the end of the day exhausted in a "tuk-tuk" that can penetrate the narrow, twisted alleyways to reach her simple house.

After the revolution, the figures of the former regime flee abroad with their money for fear of imprisonment and accountability, so the family Nawara is living with asked her to take care of their villa so that nobody notices their escape. As depicted by the film's script, Nawara is loyal to the family that entrusted her with her home, and she even sees with excessive naivety that they are good people who do not deserve what is happening with them, and after her employer gives her a reward for her marriage of 20,000 pounds, the police come to inventory the villa and accuse Nawara of stealing the money. To protect the employer, the loyal, noble, crushed girl reveals her feelings of frustration and collapse in front of all this injustice despite her sincerity.

Nawara’s poverty and the condition of people like her does not give her or them the luxury of protesting, they get the news from the radio while they go to earn a livelihood. The truth is that the idea of cutting off a street for them is a disaster, as they will be unable to reach her work, because if they leave it, they will not find food.

She loved the revolution in name only and did not participate in it, the revolution gives her the opportunity to dream of a better tomorrow and repeat the slogans of the demonstrations from the window of the bus with the protesters.

Nawara is the simple girl, who lives a love story with Ali, the Nubian young man who also faces poverty and his father's illness, and makes it impossible for them to marry under difficult life conditions and her story makes us ask why life is so hard. And despite this oppression, how do these people still have hope unless they are very strong!

Nawara was really strong, but she was as naive as the other poor people. She believed what the radio said and the news that the corrupt symbols would be held accountable and give them money - the money that, when she imagined getting it, she dreamed of treating her fiancé's father and renting a house to get married after many years of waiting.

Filming and moving from the world of Nawara’s dystopia where she lives and the world of utopia that she is allowed to enter to work in was very good, as well as the performance of the two key protagonists, Menna Shalaby and Amir Salah El-Din. We believe that they are Nawara and Ali, who cannot marry due to poor financial conditions. The film's soundtrack is from the distinguished Layal Watfa, which harmonizes beautifully with the storyline of the film.

The intense painful realism of the movie elevates its beauty. Experiencing the lives of its protagonists and their suffering is the essence of what cinema offers to viewers. Nawara's story may not have a strong and impressive plot, but, in its simplicity and truth, it carries a lot of meanings and messages.


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