Taking place amidst the unforgiving riots that swept across Egypt back in 2013, where the public rose up against the government, with a military intervention separating those supporting this endeavour, and those fervently against it. To peer into this set of events, Mohamed Diab places the viewer in the back of a police truck for just under 24 hours – using this confined space, and the characters within it, as a catalyst to explore and understand the ongoing conflict, making for rich, pertinent cinematic viewing.
The first detainees are Associated Press reporters, wrongly accused on being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and so are locked up by the uncompromising soldiers. Vying to be released, through the small windows in the back of the truck, the press manage to convince a group of rioters to help them, but instead they too find themselves thrown in. Though all seemingly of the same political movement, as the truck descends into the chaos of the streets, members of the MB are also then detained, leaving supporters from both sides alone in this confined space. Tensions are high, and violence is on the menu, though to survive, they may all need to find a way to get along in a bid to leave this truck with their freedom, and dignity, two things they’re currently without.
Given the entire film takes place in this truck, it makes for immensely claustrophobic cinema, an immersive experience as we too feel like a prisoner, and it’s unbearable to sit through at times, particularly when the MB members are initially thrown in and everybody starts fighting. We never once leave this setting, seeing the world purely from the restricted view out of the small windows, our only semblance of daylight, and connection to the world outside. Given the nature of this film though, it does feel like a stage play, and there’s a frustrating inclination to implement some superfluous melodrama, such as when one of the rioters realises his best friend has been secretly dating his sister, a needless addition, injected into a tale that is hardly lacking in tension and drama already.
Though despite the fact we’re coming into this tale with so little context, having to get to know a whole group of people, with different ideals and from different backgrounds, religions and social classes, it’s a credit to the filmmaker that by the close of play we care about each and every one, privy only to brief snippets, but so much is said through conversation that we feel as though we know more than enough.
It’s a tale that feels remarkably relevant in the present day, as with any conflict based around religion, you notice how absurd a thing it is to seperate us based purely on faith and this film thrives in such a notion. But the main thing to take away is the sheer futility of war, as we realise how similar these people are, tied together by humanity, emotions, and the will to survive. They may not share a common goal, but there are plenty of shared interests (such as football, for instance) which is what makes this such a profound, moving film, told in a gloriously simplistic, and yet creative way.
Clash is released on April 21st