Analysis Saturday Matinees Preview

Saturday Matinees Preview: Rehearsal (2020)

Director: Omar Aziz

Writer: Omar Aziz

Cast: Barry Saad

Running time: 7mins

Films by artists from low-income backgrounds, by opposition groups hit by censorship, or by individuals in nations hit by international sanctions, still need a platform. This year, Indy Film Library is looking to provide them with one.

Over the next six weeks, the first season of our Saturday Matinees will showcase work from Brazil, Iran, Egypt and other places where monetary and legal constraints have prevented the free communication of political and social issues.

The third film in our series comes from Omar Aziz of Egypt. An actor and filmmaker, Aziz studies film directing in Cairo’s High Cinema Institute – however, due to the weakness of Egypt’s currency, screening work outside his country is difficult.

Fittingly, Rehearsal centres on a young actor, confined to a small apartment and deprived of a voice. Barry Saad, as The Actor, gives a phenomenal performance considering he is largely unable to make a noise – his face contorting in terror, frustration, and fury as his screams fall silent from his lips.

Apparently, this is a “recurring dream” he has – and it speaks to a nation governed by de facto military dictatorship, where even in periods of supposed ‘civilian rule’, freedom of expression is routinely and brutally snuffed out. The madness of having something to say and being unable to say it would be more than enough for Aziz’s film to be effective enough to make a point – and abstract enough to stay out of trouble – if it were just left at this. Particularly due to the emotional potency of Saad’s performance.

Unfortunately, Aziz is determined to create a more conventional framework for Rehearsal, and it loses a lot of its power for it. Crowbarring in a story about lost love feels frankly cheap – as if there were no other reason someone might have license to feel upset – while the arc that accompanies it robs the piece of much of its atmosphere.

The said arc concludes with Saad finally being able to get some words out; but rather than something imaginative or compelling, it’s that infamous passage from Hamlet that everyone knows. It might help if the sound had not been recorded via a tin-can-telephone, but even then, this is an underwhelming and unimaginative end to a film that might have packed a real punch.

With that being said, overall, Rehearsal is a powerful showcase of silent acting, and a portrait of the muted rage that permeates the psyche of a society which is not free to speak its mind. An ideal addition to our Saturday Matinees series, then.

The film will be available to view in full, for free, throughout the weekend, via our Saturday Matinees theatre page. As the film is still trying to gain access to other festivals, the page is password protected. Use the code IFLMATINEE2223 to access the film.

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