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29 May, Wednesday
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Filmy Friday: ‘Men Agl ZEko’ (For Zeko) pushes all the right buttons

Before I begin, I would like to state that I have your weekend plans sorted. 

You’re welcome.

I went to the movies this week and it was my very first time watching an Arabic language film in the cinema, on the premiere night, no less.

‘Men Agl Zeko’, which translates into ‘For Zeko’, is a story about big dreams and one hilariously dysfunctional family’s desire to fulfil theirs. It is heartwarming, it is cleverly funny and it is very real. 

Zacharia Fathy or Zeko is the only child of Fathy, a funeral van driver, and Safaa, a housewife. Home is the slums of Cairo where money is scarce and life is difficult. Safaa knows in her heart that her husband is a good man, but try as he might, he cannot fight with what he believes – that is life taking its natural course for them. She loves him but she’s run out of patience. 

Safaa and Fathy don’t want their present to be their son’s future, so when Zeko is selected to compete in a contest to choose the smartest kid in Egypt, his parents see in the opportunity a ray of hope for a better life for him. They decide to undertake a two-day road trip to the Siwa Oasis, the site of the competition. 

Road trips can be boring, but not this one. 

They set off in – you’re not ready for this – the funeral van, which Fathy borrows (steals) from his boss, with Fathy’s junkie brother Essam, who can’t stop shoplifting, and his aged womanising father who has Alzhiemer’s, in tow. It’s a nutty bunch but what’s the most that could go wrong? 

Turns out, a lot. 

Fleeing from the police, the family crashes a masquerade party, ends up spontaneously camping out in the desert with a group of researchers and comes dangerously close to getting arrested one too many times. All this for Zeko. 

In all this madness, Zeko, a sweet little boy who is sure to charm you with his childish innocence and matter-of-fact statements, has one task and one task only: to exercise the power of his smarts and beat all the other kids at the contest. His parents have blind faith in his abilities which is endearing and heartbreaking at the same time. 

Directed by Peter Mimi, and starring Karim Mehmoud Abdelaziz and the sweetheart of Egyptian Cinema, Menna Shalaby, the movie is a family drama through and through. 

My favourite thing about the movie is how Mimi has combined fragile human emotions and comedy of errors with tasteful subtlety. It packs the right punch and doesn’t feel tacky. It will take you on an emotional ride and will make you laugh, cry, and as the credits roll in, want to do a little cheerleading jig for Fathy, Safaa and their resolve. 

All in all, I enjoyed the film and not just because of the free popcorn!

You should watch it too.

An avid reader and writer, Manaal is known for her passion for telling stories. This passion results in her reading everywhere, on the metro, bus, and even in her dreams. In the rare instance, she isn't absorbed in a book, she can be found cuddling with cats, sleeping, and collecting an obscene amount of shoes.

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