Written and directed by Hala Khalil, previously known for Ahla al-Awqat (Best of Times, 2004), and Qus w Lazq (Cut and Paste, 2006). Starring Menna Shalabi, Mahmoud Hemeda, Sherin Reda and Ameer Salah Eldin.

After the revolution, many filmmakers tried to create movies addressing corruption, police brutality and poverty, the main catalysts behind the revolution, but Khalil cleverly tried to focus on the miserable life of the poor rather than politics.

The opening scene of the movie is as much genius as it can get. We follow Nawara as she goes a long journey through the allies of the ‘slums’ she lives in to fill jugs of water from the communal faucet and her way back to her grandmother carrying them. Then she heads to the hospital, where her father-in-law, ill with cancer, lies on the corridor floor waiting for a bed to become available.

Thereafter, Nawara mounts various forms of public transportation to reach the gated community where she works as a maid for Usama (Mahmoud Hemeda) and Shahinda (Sherin Reda), a spectacularly rich family who’s politically connected to ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s power machine. Khalil shifts the viewers’ focus from the lawn and pool to the amount of fresh food that goes to the dog’s daily dinner, hinting to the inequality between this life and Nawara’s.

Nawara’s background on the situation in Egypt comes from radio reports and dinner-table conversations where she works. Mubarak’s associates are fleeing the country with their millions, protests are flooding the streets demanding justice while rumors on television and radio are promising that the poor will get a windfall when the new government manages to impound the millions banked in Europe.

Khalil’s outstanding directorial job lies in the small details; Nawara washes her face in a bucket on the floor at home, while Ussama casually dives into his pool. The dog’s daily dinner usually consists of meat while all Nawara gets to eat is a cheese sandwich. This attention to small details is what distinguishes great films.

The acting was brilliant; the cast was incredibly believable and didn’t tend to overact as most of the clichés of Egyptian drama. You can actually see how Menna Shalabi transformed herself to become Nawara; there’s no doubt that her performance was outstanding, subsequently earning her the Best Actress Award at the Dubai Film Festival.

Nawara is a must-watch film which will leave you in awe. An independent movie which beats out commercial movies; it deserves to be dubbed as one of the best Egyptian movies and should represent Egypt in international film festivals.

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