Halim: a review

Posted on July 29, 2006


Went to see the movie Halim yesterday about the legendary Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez (note: Wikipedia biography quite different from movie). My friend K and I, being the only two people in Cairo who haven’t seen The Yacobian Building, decided to team up to settle this once and for all, and we woke up bright and early to catch the 12 pm show. After copious efforts we failed to find any theatre in the city that played the movie before 6 pm, although they certainly assured us differently on the phone. So we went to see Halim.
I love Abdel Halim Hafez – his music is nectar and honeydew. It makes me want to disrobe. And I certainly didn’t get to hear enough of it in the movie. The makeup job on Ahmed Zaki was pretty bad too; he looked nothing like the man, and didn’t play him believably either. His son Haitham, who played the young Abdel Halim, was just shoved on the set without even an attempt to make him look like his character (and without discernable acting skills either). I know the actor died halfway through the movie, but still, that does not negate the need for makeup on his son. Kid was mozza though, so I overlooked.
The cinematography was abysmal. The camera was actually shaking and out of focus and shit, and jerky. We couldn’t see what the purpose of that could be. Was it meant to convey the shakiness of memory? The man had an ineffably sad life, on the whole. I cried a river throughout the film. Luckily, I had taken my sister’s purse, which contained Kleenex and eyeliner, as my purses never do. I cried particularly during the war scenes, which were very well done, by the way. First time I’ve actually seen it acknowledged that the Egyptian media lied to the people about the ’67 war while it was going on, and then the Egyptians were stunned to find that they had lost and fucked up the entire Middle East.
But you won’t believe what they did: they actually showed clips of Abdel Halim movies where they clumsily stuck the head of the actor in the place of Abdel Halim’s. Oh yes, they did. It was some South Park shit, for sure. The head remained bright and unmoving while the body was all faded and flickering.
Ezzat Abou Ouf played Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and I noticed as the film went on he developed a lisp on increasing numbers of letters. By the end, we couldn’t make out words because he has somehow turned everything into the letter theh. They also had a stolid American with unsuitable facial expressions play Abdel Halim’s English doctor. They did find a girl who looked freakishly like Soad Hosny, though.
I guess I enjoyed it, and learned a lot about the man’s life too (I won’t burn it for you any further). It was doubly sad because the movie was about the life of a legend taken before his time, played by another, and the director certainly capitalized on the death of the legend who played him as well.