"Life Before the Arab Spring"
A Review of "The Nile Hilton Incident" by Nathan H. Box
Starring: Fares Fares, Tareq Abdalla, Yasser Ali Maher Director: Tarik Saleh, Writer: Tarik Saleh
Rating: 3 Stars, STREAM!
My second film of the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival focused on life before the Arab Spring consumed much of the Middle East in early 2011. Set in Egypt, "The Nile Hilton Incident" is a criminal thriller focused on a police officer who is investigating the murder of a woman at the Nile Hilton. As the plot moves along and morphs, we are treated to a look into the lives of Egypt's elite and the stranglehold they have on everyday society. As they wrestle to hold onto power, everything that keeps them safe and comfortable comes crashing down and our hero watches as the very system that employs him and keeps him from solving his case falls apart in his very hands.
To do the Arab Spring correctly, the writer/director Tarik Saleh chose to focus his energies on a quiet chaos. We can feel the revolution bubbling to the surface, but rarely come face to face with the violence and tumult we know is coming. This choice was the correct one in my estimation. For many of us, that story has been told via the news, documentaries, and a few brilliant films such as Jon Stewart's "Rosewater." Instead, we are given an inside view into the live's of the elite. This is the world unknown to many in the West. The power these people possessed was enormous. They flexed that muscle through the government, trade, banking, police enforcement, and their ability to hold themselves above the law. Ultimately, the Arab Spring concerned itself on insisting that these systems fall, balance restored, progress realized, and the Middle East opened up to the rest of the world.
Our hero in this film is a byproduct of that system. While it isn't squarely his aim to reform the system, he does seek to fight injustice. This often has him looking for justice where there is none to be found. For those of us in the West, this cascade of wrongs can be overwhelming and frustrating. As an audience member, you keep hoping that someone will do the right thing. Alas, the bribes keep flowing and power wins the day... until it doesn't. Then and there a revolution changed everything.
Be good to each other,