Ali, The Goat And Ibrahim


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ali, The Goat And Ibrahim
"Although the film has plenty of broad comedy, there is also a deal of artistry at work."

Sharif El-Bindari and screenwriter Ahmed Amer (working from a story by Ibrahim El-Batout) display a warm heart and a fine eye for absurdity in his debut feature, a buddy road-trip with a hint of magic realism - and, of course, a small goat.

He begins the action as he means to go on as we watch a large pink teddy bear travel the streets of Cairo, squarely in the centre of frame. It turns out, the toy is being given a piggyback ride by Ali (Ali Subhi), who is taking it home for his girlfriend Nada's birthday. Meanwhile, in a nearby part of town, sound guy Ibrahim (Ahmad Magdy) is struggling to record a session because of a crippling noise that only he can hear. We quickly learn that both men are suffering from an affliction - some would say a curse. Ibrahim's sound interludes, depicted in disorienting fashion with woozy camerawork from Amr Farouk, drive him to the verge of the same insanity that led his mother to commit suicide and his grandfather to deafen himself. The love of Ali's life, meanwhile, turns out not to be a girl, but a goat.

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With Ibrahim on the verge of madness and Ali's mother (Salwa Mohamed Aly) on the edge of despair, both men find themselves at the local healers, who prescribes a bizarre cure involving tossing stones into various bodies of water. Before you can say, chance encounter, Ali, Ibrahim and, naturally, Nada are embarking on comedic road trip.

El-Bindari is much more interested in the power of friendship than satirical swipes at his country. Those in traditionally revered positions - the police and the doctor are shown in the most absurd light, little more than joke figures - while the film suggests it is only by community cohesion that people's lives might improve. This latter element is further explored, rather clumsily compared to the rest of the film, by a subplot involving Ali's friend Kamata (Osama Abo El-Ata) who embarks on a chaste romance with a rescued street worker, Sabah (Nahed El Sebai). Forgotten for most of the runtime, feels more like it's padding than serving a purpose.

Fortunately, the main thrust of the story more than makes up for this, not least because of Subhi and Magdy's likeable central performances that balance the deeper emotional currents against the film's more surreal moments. Although the film has plenty of broad comedy, there is also a deal of artistry at work. Farouk shoots with a painterly eye, often capturing moments of natural beauty - singing by firelight, birds on the wing - that also act as a counterpoint to the claustrophobia of the streets of Cairo.

The mystery of both men remains intact for much of the movie, so that we must fully commit to the journey with them, only knowing what one tells the other. Somehow, the fact that Ali goes to bed beside a goat, never seems remotely seedy as we gradually begin to suspect there might be more to his four-legged companion than meets the eye. She becomes a talisman, not to just for Ali but for Ibrahim and us too. Gradually, we, and those they meet, come not only to accept the men's innocence but to embrace it. For all its frivolity, El-Bindari is digging away at something much more profound concerning human connection - no kidding.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2018
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A buddy comedy road-trip with two men and their four-legged friend.

Director: Ali Mizah wa Ibrahim

Writer: Ahmed Amer, based on a story by Ibrahim El-Batout

Starring: Ahmad Magdy, Ali Subhi, Osama Abo El-Ata, Nahed El Sebai

Year: 2016

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Egypt


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