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Review: Tayih Fi Amrika

Tayih fi Amrika (Lost in America)

a film review exclusive

Tarek Atia

Starring: Khaled El-Nabawi, Hala Sheeha, Iman, Mohamed Lotfy. Directed by: Rafi Girgis.

cairolive.com rating: 6 out of 10
Boy meets girl, and they fall in love. The trouble is -- boy isn't who he says he is.

Making matters more complicated is the fact that all this action is taking place in the US, not Egypt.

Sherif El-Masri's (Khaled El-Nabawi) personality is encapsulated in the first few moments in the film, on the Egyptair flight taking him to the States. He's got $200 in his pocket, and is off to start a new life in America. He knows nobody, and is rude to the man sitting next to him until he finds out that he's been living in the States for 17 years and owns a restaurant. But when the man is more interested in giving him advice than offering him a job, ("In the US, you have to depend on yourself"), El-Nabawi sulks and heads off to try and occupy an empty first class seat.

At Los Angeles airport, as El-Nabawi wonders where he is going to spend the night, one of his fellow passengers, Adel El-Sanhouri (played by Mohamed Lotfy) is detained by customs officials who mistake a bag of molokhiya in his suitcase for weed. When El-Nabawi
sees a woman (played by Iman) and her daughter (played by Hala Sheeha) waiting for Adel and overhears them saying that they don't know what he looks like, he pretends to be Adel, Hala Sheeha's cousin and has come to the US to marry her.

Director Rafi Girgis, an Egyptian-American, naturally enough, seems to have a keen eye for the way an Egyptian-American mother and her daughter may behave, especially one who is trying to marry her daughter to a rich young man from Egypt. As El-Nabawi continues to pretend he is Adel, mother and daughter both seem to ignore fairly obvious clues that something is amiss.

Meanwhile, unable to speak a word of English, and having lost his bride's address, the real Adel ends up being dropped off in a bad part of town, where he quickly becomes the victim of a drive by shooting.

The nurse character who takes charge of his recovery is also a decent character type. A clearly lonely Lebanese-American, she bubbles beyond belief in the presence of the silent Adel, who himself is stunned by such an independent Arab woman. "You live here alone" he asks, when first shown her apartment. "You eat while you drive?" he asks her when he realizes she's about to eat a hamburger in the car. By the end, he seems to fully appreciate her efforts, and a romantic interest of sorts sparks.

The trouble may be that these characters may seem a bit too cartoon-ish to those who have not come across real-life examples of such people.

For those who have, Girgis manages to portray them well, signaling the start of a genre which should surely be explored further, if only to make obvious that no matter where they are, or how Americanized they've become, immigrants still manage to retain an essential Arab character.

Despite the underlying meaning, however, a lot of movie-goers expected much more comedy and action, and left feeling a little unsatisfied with this slow moving slice of life type of film-making, with its witty observations that may have been too subtle to catch on in the mainstream.

Perhaps the film will be appreciated by Egyptian Americans because it is rare that their life is presented on screen, while those who have never been to the US may appreciate the fact the entire film was shot on location.

The funny moments are left to speak for themselves, without exaggeration, as is usually the case in other films that may have dealt with the idea of strangers in a strange land. Examples include when the real Adel is stopped by customs for trying to bring a turkey, fiseekh, and molokhiya into the US. Or when the fake Adel thinks the police at the door have come to arrest him, when all they really want is to inform the owners that the neighbors have been complaining about the leaves from their trees falling on their yard.

Combined, however, with the somewhat contrived plot, the fact that the film does not go for either the overt comic or dramatic approach, means Tayih fi Amrika will probably leave a lot of audiences in Egypt tayheen as well.

Currently Showing in Egypt at: Miami, Odeon, Karim, Sphinx, Heliopolis, Florida, Wonderland, Serag

This article provided courtesy of cairolive.com

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Review: The Mummy Returns

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King Scorpion & Egypt in Films

Egypt in Hollywood


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