Exterior/Night review – intriguing After Hours-ish yarn set in Cairo is hampered by misogyny

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An intriguing comedy drama about a film-maker who falls foul of a taxi driver and a sex worker is atmospheric but muddled

Independent Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla, whose previous dramatic features (including Rags & Tatters, Heliopolis and Microphone) found favour on the festival circuit, takes a swerve into comic territory with this compact, bumpy picaresque set over 12 hours or so in Cairo. Although the dialogue touches occasionally on politics and the repressive authoritarian regime currently in power, the narrative engine is driven largely by a more universally relatable subject: the exposure of a smug member of the elite to the cruelties and petty grifts of the underclass. Think After Hours, but in Arabic, and with more police brutality.

Film director Moe (Karim Kassem) is first met having a tough day at work shooting a commercial for money; he is also being guilt tripped by a photographer friend (Donia Maher) who wants him to help champion the cause of another friend who has been imprisoned for writing a novel using forbidden swear words. Judging by the subtitles, this kind of coarse language is as common among Moe’s diverse circle of acquaintance as it is anywhere else, but the consequences are much more severe for those daring to use it in print (or, presumably, in a film like this).

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