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Filmmaker Mohamed Diab is well known in Egypt for his work as an activist and blogger during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, so it comes as no surprise that this film focuses on the revolutionary crisis in his country’s recent history. Eschewing the usual format of documentary or think-piece, Diab has made Clash, a tense, thrilling, highly cinematic drama which will have you on the edge of your seat.
"A tense, thrilling, highly cinematic drama..."
The conceit of focusing on a single location is not new, but Clash uses it to powerful effect, with the confined space of a police van capturing a microcosm of the divisions which exist in contemporary Egypt. Set during the protests which took place following the overthrow of president Morsi, the film opens as American-Egyptian journalist Adam and his photographer Zein are thrown in the back of the van amidst the turmoil. When a group of anti-government protesters start stoning the van, thinking an American spy is inside, they are apprehended and tossed in as well. Tensions inside the vehicle rise as group of pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood protesters are forced to join them. As chaos continues to unfold on the streets outside the van, this divided group fight amongst themselves until it becomes clear that their lives are also in very real danger.
Frenetic hand-held camera work and superb sound design viscerally translate the terrifying reality of being caught up in such a dangerous situation. While each character clearly represents an element of Egyptian society, these are not caricatures. Indeed, as the drama unfolds, they, like us, learn more about each other’s beliefs and experiences and despite the desperate situation, there are moments of kindness and humour. Much like the people it portrays, Clash is a fascinating, hot-headed mixture of deep divisions and deep humanity.