Egyptian black comedy VOY! VOY! VOY! takes on the illusion of immigration
The pursuit of a better life in a land of opportunity is a common social belief portrayed in Egyptian cinema.
VOY! VOY! VOY!, directed by Omar Hilal, and inspired by true events that took place in 2015, sheds light on the illusion of immigration and the desire to have a better life anywhere other than home.
The film, which is Hilal's debut, has received positive feedback and has been chosen to represent Egypt at the 96th Oscars for Best International Feature Film.
"VOY! VOY! VOY! offers viewers a vivid depiction of the character's social class, background, and education, with attention paid to the choice of clothes, slang, vocabulary, behaviour, and attitude"
The film VOY! VOY! VOY! starts with the narrator, Adel, who is a football team coach played by renowned actor Bayoumy Fouad. He tells the audience that the story has an intriguing ending, which they still have no clue about. The movie is a dark humour or black comedy that evokes mixed feelings of love and disapproval, distress and happiness, hope and despair, and laughter and tears.
The protagonist of the story is Hassan, played by well-established actor Mohamed Farrag. Hassan works as a security guard and represents millions of people who have limited education and mediocre skills, leaving them with no decent life. However, they still seek salvation abroad.
Hassan has sought refuge outside the country several times, once by fooling an elderly British tourist into marrying him, and another time through illegal immigration, eventually ending up empty-handed.
He lives in a simple flat in an impoverished neighbourhood while his mother works as a house cleaner.
Hassan's mother, like many Egyptian mothers of her time, places a heavy burden on him to always do better to gain her approval.
Unfortunately, this constant pressure leads to a series of failed attempts as Hassan's unrealistic expectations are never met by the opportunities that come his way.
Overwhelmed with despair, Hassan discovers an uplifting news story in a piece of newspaper that wrapped his sandwich. He learns about a football team for the visually impaired that is preparing to compete in Poland against international teams.
A con artist emerges
Hassan's inner con artist finally emerges as he desperately tries to leave Egypt by any means necessary. To achieve his goal, he cleverly manages to join the football team by pretending to have lost his eyesight due to a brain disease he acquired during adulthood.
In 2014, football for people with visual impairments was introduced in Egypt. The game involves four players who are either blind or partially sighted, and one goalkeeper who is sighted.
Although the game is as intense and fast-paced as any ordinary sport, it has been modified to suit the needs of visually impaired players.
To ensure equal opportunities for players with varying degrees of disability, all players are required to wear blindfolds. Additionally, a ball with a bell attached to it is used, which emits a sound when kicked, enabling players to locate it.
Throughout the events, Hassan almost manages to deceive everyone around him, including Engy, a journalist who is working on a story about the team. Engy is played by the celebrated actress and ex-prima ballerina, Nelly Karim.
Despite belonging to different social classes, Hassan and Engy develop an implicit affection for each other. However, at a certain point, Engy discovers a dark secret about Hassan, who is a man in despair. Despite this, she chooses to keep his secret.
For Hassan and others who follow a similar path, the ends justify the means. But as Hassan's cover is blown, he strikes a deal with the devil to achieve what he believes is the solution to all his problems.
Go! Go! Go!
The word "voy" originates from Spanish, and it means "to go." In the game, when a player takes possession of the ball, they shout "voy" multiple times as a warning to their teammates or the opposing team to avoid collisions.
Recent news headlines have highlighted the danger of illegal immigration, particularly by sea, which often results in the loss of lives of Egyptians and their loved ones.
Hilal's directing style involves avoiding long, drawn-out scenes and instead provides viewers with hints and insinuations to piece together on their own while being captivated by the narrative. Any facts or details are slowly revealed throughout the story.
VOY! VOY! VOY! has an intriguing plot filled with twists and surprises that keep viewers guessing.
At first, it may seem to revolve around blind football or people with visual disabilities, but the story gradually unfolds to reveal undeclared surprises.
The film crew held press conferences in Egypt and abroad before its premiere, stating that it was filmed in Egypt, Lebanon, and Romania, although it mostly depicts events happening in Egypt, Kenya, and Poland.
The well-known film producer Mohamed Hefzy, who has sparked controversies in recent years, took a chance on Hilal, a director with no prior cinema experience but extensive knowledge in advertising.
Hefzy's gamble paid off, as the movie is a huge success. VOY! VOY! VOY! offers viewers a vivid depiction of the character's social class, background, and education, with attention paid to the choice of clothes, slang, vocabulary, behaviour, and attitude.
The fictional events in the film take place in 2013, around the time of the military coup that overthrew the late President Mohamed Morsi. VOY! VOY! VOY! has received positive feedback from both critics and viewers, topping the country's box office of local movies for weeks. It has been selected to represent Egypt in the International Movie category at the Academy Awards next year.
Thaer Mansour is a journalist based in Cairo, reporting for The New Arab on politics, culture and social affairs from the Egyptian capital