CAIRO - 29 November 2020: El-Ghassala (Washing Machine) has gone down in history as the only Egyptian movie that was screened in cinemas during the 2020 Eid El-Adha season, and the first to be screened at theaters when they finally reopened after having been shuttered for months due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
But before evaluating the film artistically, hats off to Synergy Films, New Century Productions and Misr International Films for taking the very high risk and releasing the movie at such a critical time to keep wheels of the local cinema industry turning. It was critical that the sector forge ahead with a release, and the three huge production companies managed to give the ailing sector a much-needed shot in the arm.
Against all expectations, the film—which stars Mahmoud Hemeida, Mohamed Sallam, Bayoumi Fouad, Ahmed Fathy and Taher Abou Leila. Guest stars include Mohamed Tharwat, Mahmoud El Leithy and Ali El Tayeb and a special cameo appearance by Shereen Reda—garnered over LE 12,000,000. Following young physics professor Omar (Ahmed Hatem) who uses a washing machine as a time machine to get rid of the obstacles that stand between him and his girlfriend Aida (Hannah El-Zahed) the film sees Sameh (Mohamed Sallam) competing with Omar to win Aida’s heart.
The film, which is distributed regionally by Dollar Film and internationally by N Star, marks the second collaboration between Ahmed Hatem and Hannah El Zahed, after Qeset Hob (Love Story) which was released last year on Valentine’s Day. Love Story was a runaway success oozing chemistry between Hatem and Zahed. But is this chemistry enough for El-Ghassala to succeed?
Hatem and Zahed didn’t take their roles seriously enough and there is absolutely no effort in their roles. Both were capable of turning in better performances, and the chemistry just wasn’t enough to save this movie.
Unlike Hatem and Zahed, Sallam took his role very seriously. Both he and Fouad were comfortably in their comfort zone of comedy, and if the plot were a bit better they would have done much more. Hemeida was great as usual and tried his best to keep up the movie’s pace, turning in a performance that was natural, smooth and credible. But again it wasn’t enough to save the movie.
This is hardly a serious movie, and it definitely does not belong to the science fiction category. It is a film based on the tired idea of the time machine, and depends mainly on the relationships of its characters more than the concept itself.
The plot of the film which at first appears to be a serious concept set within a comedic framework, suddenly turns into a series of weak comic incidents. The cohesion is quickly lost and by the end El-Ghassala has dissolved into a parody of a movie.
There is a huge gap between the film’s beginning and its ending, and the directing leaves much to be desired, yet despite this El-Ghassala delivers a healthy dose of good entertainment and comedy in some scenes. It’s even enjoyable if you judge each scene separately.
And perhaps that’s just what the doctor ordered—a chance for the audience to escape the boredom and depression resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown, and this is likely the main reason behind El Ghassala’s box-office success.
Shortcomings aside, El Ghassala is a passable family movie with a comic touch that is consistent with what we call “feast movies.” Though the film offers very little artistic value, it’s still a good comeback for Egyptian cinema.