A police officer in Cairo investigates the murder of a famous club singer at the Nile Hilton
Hotel. What initially seems to be a crime of passion turns into something that concerns the power elite of Egypt.
This movie gives you a chance to observe an Egypt which usually escapes the eyes of ordinary tourists: a land of immigrants, corruption, both individual and systemic, nepotism and criminal interests hidden in plain sight among sumptuous villas of politicians and businessmen. The story takes place in the days leading up to the 2011 revolution that would eventually oust President Hosni Mubarak and it is a very noir tale, with no white hats and no happy endings.
A young Sudanese immigrant working as a cleaning lady at the titular hotel, overhears an argument in a room. Soon two men leave in relatively brief succession. In the room remains just a cadaver of a woman. Tidying up the mess is left to Noredin (Fares Fares), a cop who has few qualms about pilfering cash from the scene of the crime – everybody does it, life is expensive and salaries not exactly high. Noredin’s inquiry immediately points him toward Shafiq (Ahmed Seleem), a real-estate developer and parliament member. Shafiq denies responsibility for the death of the girl who was a local pop singer named Lalena. Lalena also moonlighted as a prostitute; a sleazy pimp named Nagy (Hichem Yacoubi) used her beauty as a bait to take compromising photos of her clients (including Shafiq) that could then be used as blackmail. Stuck in the center of this cesspool, Noredin proves incapable of affecting anything resembling real change. What’s more, his own uncle, district police chief Kamal (Yasser Ali Maher), turns his back on him as soon as it seems the most profitable option.
I enjoyed this movie enormously – not only it sounded real, it also followed the best classic noir cinema traditions. It allowed me to get a glimpse of true Egypt and social problems faced by the real Egyptians, something you won’t experience while sunbathing or enjoying your drink in a hotel lounge.
A very original story with a bunch of anti-heroes who try to redeem themselves. Or not. Recommendable to everybody who would like to know more about Egypt and its problems.