The Cry of an Ant

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am


When Egyptian filmmaker Sameh Abdel Aziz began making his seventh feature two years ago, he was aiming for a satire which ends in tragedy. Frustrated by the rampant corruption that festered under Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule and then tortured by the security services for daring to protest against such social ills, the film's protagonist, Gouda, believes his only hope lies in actually voicing his complaint directly to Mubarak.

As he throws himself towards the presidential limousine and opens the door, he discovers there's no one there - which the filmmaker says is a symbol of how Mubarak had long been a cipher, with his son (and his cronies) heading a criminal syndicate of a regime.

That should have been the film's original ending. But then came the massive uprisings across Egypt, the stand-off in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and finally the departure of the Mubarak clan from power. And so Abdel Aziz altered the ending - weaving real footage of the demonstrations into the film's grand finale.

The Cry of an Ant - which screens on Thursday as part of the Hong Kong Egyptian Film Festival - is no longer a desperate yelp but a triumphant holler, as the 'ants' come together to bring down the elephants in power. The film has become a timely reminder of the social malaise which fed the massive uprising that brought down what was once seen as an immovable authoritarian regime.

The film's title stems from a conversation between Gouda and a government henchman who hauls him into jail. In a painful exchange, the latter instructs the former about what he should do if he doesn't want to be trampled on: he should walk by the wall, eat sugar and live the subjugated life of an ant. Gouda clearly was not having it - nor were the masses in real life.

The Cry of an Ant is far from a historical document, though: with the military still in power and a full-fledged democracy not yet in place, maybe the ants will have to scream again.

The Cry of an Ant, Thursday, 9.30pm, The Grand Cinema, Elements mall, West Kowloon