Set against a background of an ongoing Arab Spring and preceding the events at Tahrir Square in 2011, The Nile Hilton Incident is the new feature film from Swedish Egyptian filmmaker Tarik Saleh (Gitmo, Metropia). Part crime caper, part political mystery drama, the film deals with themes relating to corruption in the police force in Cairo, a city built on contradictions, religious hypocrisy and violence against its mostly destitute population. Written as well as directed by Saleh, the film offers a beautifully crafted and genuinely thrilling storyline which could rival any hardboiled Hollywood noir worth its salt.
Police detective Noredin Mustafa (Fares Fares) is an ordinary Cairo city cop, he cheats, he steals and is always more than happy to take backhanders whenever the occasion presents itself. After being handed the case of a singer who has just been found murdered in a room at the Nile Hilton hotel, Noredin soon discovers that the young woman had been having a secret relationship with a wealthy property developer named Shafiq (Ahmed Seleem), who also happens to be a powerful member of the Egyptian parliament. While desperately looking for the only witness to the murder, a young undocumented Sudanese maid named Salwa (Mari Malek), Noredin is told to drop the whole case and chalk the incident down as suicide.
Caught between his conscience and unwillingness to rock the boat, Noredin is compelled by his instincts to do the right thing and find the singer’s killer despite orders from above to stop digging. While being cajoled by his prime suspect and pushed by his superiors to move on, Noredin finds him attracted to the dead woman’s best friend, a Tunisian singer named Gina (Hania Amar).
Saleh offers a brilliantly complex storyline and an inspired narrative arc which takes us all the way up to the start of the Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt government. With a beautifully executed noir aesthetic and a genuinely thrilling storyline, the film exposes Egypt as a country caught between tradition in an ever changing world, where religion and corruption go hand in hand and no-one seems to bat an eyelid at what goes on in the shadows.
Fares is an inspired casting as the Noredin, he plays the crooked cop with a conscience with a rather impressive ease and commendable nuance. The film does a fantastic job in allowing those unsure of what pushed people to Tahrir Square in 2011, to familiarise themselves with the corrupt system which drove its young people onto the street and its former president to jail. A genuinely thrilling neo-noir with added political intrigue.
The Nile Hilton Incident is our in UK cinemas on the 2nd of March.