‘Do animals too get judged on Judgement Day?’ asks the 10-year-old Obama (Ahmed Abdulhafiz) of his adoptive father. The naivety of the question has to be judged from the title, which translates to ‘Day of Judgement’. Beshay (Rady Gamal) is a 40-year-old, leprosy-afflicted, society-shunned Egyptian who ekes out a living at Garbage Mountain, collecting worthy scrap to sell to dealers, and who was left at the gates of a leper colony as a child when diagnosed with the disease. When his mentally challenged wife passes away, he sets off to Qena to find his parents who had jettisoned him. Joining him in the arduous journey is Obama, whose real name is Mohammed, but changed his name as he “liked the guy on TV!”
First-time feature director Abu Bakr Shawky, whose Yomeddine has won multiple awards, including the Francois Chalais prize at Cannes earlier this year, has taken in the sights and sounds of rustic Egypt well, with Argentinian cinematographer, Federico Cesca, going to great lengths to capture the ramshackle, dusty towns. Gamal and Ahmed, both first-timers, have acquitted themselves admirably, with the inimical-turned-compassionate Hamed (Yasser El-Ayouti), as the legless beggar, pitching in with a good supporting act. Despite the subtle wittiness of Beshay’s dialogues, passion and compassion are brought out explicitly.
Though at times one gets the feel of a documentary, it took a good decade for writer-director Shawky to metamorphose his 2009 short ‘The Colony’ – based on a leper colony – into a feature length film.