Disc Reviews

Clash (2016) Blu-ray Review

In Locke (2013), starring Tom Hardy, the entire action takes place within a car on a motorway. Similarly, in Buried (2010) a US Marine (Ryan Reynolds) is buried alive in a coffin and the whole film is set within the coffin. Earlier still, in Abbas Kiarostami’s Iranian film 10 (2002) the action also takes place within the confines of a car as a woman taxi driver holds conversations with her passengers. Again, even closer to home the 2009 film, Lebanon has a claustrophobic atmosphere set for the entirety of the film inside a tank during the civil war in 1982. Once again there is a strong political angle to the Egyptian-French co-production, Clash (2016), set during the counter protests against the new Musilim Brotherhood government that saw the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. This film sees 25 people with differing political agendas thrown together in a police riot vehicle.

Clash is set over a couple of days in the July 2013. The film begins with two journalists from the Associated Press being grabbed by riot police who mistakenly believe that they are MB (Muslim Brotherhood) supporters and are thrown into the back of a police arrest van. The two men, one of whom is an Egytian American, tries to get the attention of pro-police/army protestors against MB who, equally mistakenly think the two men inside are spies and begin hurling rocks at the vehicle. Police again wrongly arrest these people believeing that they are also MB. The police vehicle moves on and comes across more protestors. This time they are Muslim Brotherhood and they are too arrested and hustled into the back of the vehicle. Now there are 25 people in the back with the potential for conflict between the different parties. Needless to say conditions inside the vehicle are not only cramped with the potential for hostility, but it is also very hot in the sweltering heat. The people locked in the van begin to feel claustrophobic and exhausted, particularly as they are surrounded by the noise and chaos of a riot outside and later an MB shooter firing on the police with stray bullets penetrating the van as well.

This was director Mohamed Diab’s second film and, as with his previous film Cairo 678 (2010) he has come under fire in his home country for having studied in New York and accusations that he is not really Egyptian, despite honours at the Cannes Film Festival and awards at other worldwide festivals and critical praise. In this sense Diab stands alongside his Shia counterparts in Iran who have faced difficulties in making intelligent and subtely political films there, many of whom of course now work in exile. Never the less Diab was able to shoot his films of very recent political events in his home capital of Cairo. In one ambitious scene Diab was able to set up a tense riot and protest as the police vehicles are caught under motorway flyovers and face a mass of protestors hurling stones at the police in a very well set up scene. Another element that is thrown into the riot are the green laser lights that were a familiar site through the protests as though this were a rave.

A challenge Diab faced in the film was to give individuality to 25 different characters and as much equal weight to them as possible. This was done successfully by the director. For the pro-police protestors he has mostly dressed them in western clothes: bleached hair, football shirts and a young man with ‘F**k this shit’ emblazened across his t-shirt. The journalists are dressed in typical journalist khakis, while some of the MB supporters are wearing armbands or dressed in traditional Islamic clothing. But even the MB are separated by the self appointed leader of the MB group who seems to be a committed activist, even radical who separates the MB paid up members with mere supporters and tries to organise them. It is visible on the faces of the others that they fear the commitment of these people.

As well as a child rounded up with the people, there is 14-year-old Islamic Aisha and the vocal and outspoken Nagwa (Nelly Karim) who is one of the stronger characters in the van. There is some comic relief in the rotund Gamal Kalbaz as one of the MB supporters who is thrown into the back of the vehicle with a colundar on his head for protection as a helmet. At one point we can also see he’s wearing satin boxer shorts with red hearts on them.

Diab takes no political sides with his film, cleverly managing to keep it balanced and neutral, throwing a group of ideologically different people into the same environment. When the heat is really on and their lives are in danger the group mostly drop their partisanships and show comradeship to their situaition, in between their fighting at any rate.

Released by Arrow Academy, as expected from the label, there are some quality extras. As well as a trailer there is an interview with Diab following its premiere in London and a Making Of featurette.

Chris Hick


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