Henedy’s Eid offering is a treat for fans of Arabic film
Antar Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad Director: Sherif Ismail Stars: Mohamed Henedy, Bassem Samra, Dorra and Eman Elsayed Arabic film afficionados do not have much to choose from this Eid season. Much- anticipated Egyptian dramas Jawab E’Tikal and Herob Ittary failed to make it onto UAE cinema screens as advertised, while the release of Egyptian pop-star Tamer Hosny’s drama Tisbah Ala Khair has been delayed. Fortunately, Mohamed Henedy’s sparkling new comedy, An- tar Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad, provides some good cheer.
No, the title, with its repeated “Ibn”, is not a typo. It refers to Henedy’s character, who is part of the lineage of the great pre-Islamic Arab knight and poet Antarah ibn Shaddad. Not that he initially knows this. The film begins with him known as Hichmat. After being abandoned as a baby in a desert mosque, he is adopted and ends up working in the family- run electrical appliance store with his half-brother, Saeed (Bassem Samra).
The latter – a wily, self-serving businessman – reveals to Hichmat his true identity after an encounter with a historian of- fering riches for artefacts from the historical Ibn Shaddad clan.
So Hichmat, with Saeed in tow, returns to the desert and his roots, where he discovers a tribe in need of leadership against a marauding rival gang. Fans of Henedy know what to expect – the 52-year-old essentially plays the same character in most of his comedies – a frantic neurotic in the vein of Seinfeld’s George Costanza.
What elevates Antar Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad to one of his best offerings since 2012’s Tita Raheeba is that some thought has gone into the plot.
The characters are well drawn, particularly Saeed (Bassem Samra), who displays an engaging, conflicted mix of tenderness and selfishness.
The script also does what good comedies should do – subtly allude to a wider topic affecting society. In this case, the film questions the extent to which modernity should be prized over history.
But the script’s biggest success lies in the many zingers throughout. When Hichmat learns his heroic father has died in battle as a result of catching a cold, he quips: “You guys didn’t have antibiotics?”
Yes, in print reads as cheesy but when conveyed in the trademark rapid-fire Egyptian vernacular, it will illicit a hearty laugh. Fun and carefree, Antar Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad is Mohammed Henedy at his best.
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Mohamed Henedy in Antar Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad.