Stock photoWriter/director Atef Hetata has created something of a masterpiece with his first feature film Al Abwab al Moghlaka, or The Closed Doors. Artfully examining a young man’s slow descent into Muslim fundamentalism as a way to combat his own awakening sexual urges, Hetata’s film meticulously unfolds as viewers watch in subdued dismay.

Young Mohamed Hussein (Ahmed Azmi) lives alone with his divorced mother Fatma (Sawsan Badr, in a role that earned her a Best Actress award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival). His older brother has disappeared in Iraq several years before the story begins, and his father has abandoned them to live with a younger woman. Fatma works as a maid for a demanding Madame and her lecherous husband, putting all hope for her future into Mohamed’s school work and their dream for him to become a pilot.

As Mohamed’s daydreaming disposition leads to lustful thoughts and sexual tension around women, he begins to detach himself from his mother, his schoolwork and his future, finding solace instead in a local mosque and a new friend who sells flowers on the street. “Don’t some dreams seem realer than life?” Mohamed asks at one point during the movie. In fact, what Hetata has done is grittily display real life in an almost dreamlike fashion. As scenes fade into one another and sweeping piano music fills the frames, viewers are simultaneously reminded of Hetata’s filmmaking prowess and made privy to a painful reality.

Winning several awards for everything from best screenplay to a Cinema for Peace Award at the Venice Film Festival, this film begs to be viewed by audiences the world over. Set in Egypt during the Gulf War, it explores not only religion, but social and political issues as well. With an especially powerful and nuanced performance from Azmi as the confused young lead, The Closed Doors creeps in a deceptively understated manner towards its bewildering climax.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Fundamentalist’s rating: D
Peace Proponent’s rating: B+

To purchase The Closed Doors, visit Arab Film Distribution
For more information on the film, visit IMDB

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