While Western cinema has been offering audiences a wide variety of genres for years, Egyptian cinema has traditionally stuck to a few time tested ones that, most notably, did not include the thriller. That is until the film, 122, came along. eniGma’s Nayera Yasser got the chance to sit down with the film’s director, Yasir Alyasiri, to talk about this groundbreaking cinematic adventure and why and how he decided to take up the challenge of being a trailblazer introducing this tricky genre to Arab audiences.
Recounting how it all began, 122’s Iraqi director, Yasir Alyasiri says, “Seif Oraby, the producer, called me and then sent the script over. I immediately called him back after I read it. I told him that it would be a real challenge, since it was a genre that had not really been attempted in Arab cinema to date. This kind of film is tricky to do because there is a fine line between presenting a believable story and completely losing the audience.”
The movie promised to be an intriguing project that Alyasiri could not resist, especially with its star-studded cast which includes the likes of Ahmed Dawoud, Amina Khalil, Tarek Lotfy and Ahmed Al Fishawy, among others. As soon as Ahmed Dawoud appears on the screen, out of breath yet absolutely determined to stay alive, the audience is instantly enveloped in the excitement of a true thriller.
In order to successfully take up the challenge, Alyasiri and his team utilised a number of advanced technologies. Enumerating the new features that 122 introduces to Egyptian cinema, Alyasiri says, “The 4D experience starts with the simultaneous move of chairs with the camera, all the way to the scents and odors found in every scene, the rain effect, bullet effect and blood splattering effect.” The movie also made use of various other technological advancements, including in its sound system which was operated and supervised by a professional team in the United States.
Even though the 4DX technology has been used in Hollywood for several years, until now the technology was completely foreign to Arab cinema. “We are only comfortable with what we are familiar with,” says Alyasiri as he relates how the Arab region cherishes drama films and comedies over any other genres. “Filmmakers believe that investing in movies like 122 is like delving into water that we do not want to test. But, I wanted to go there to give people a good cinematic experience. The audience should have the chance to view all sorts of movies as they do in western cinema,” he explains.
While the film’s crew was consumed by the challenge of creating this unprecedented experience for their audiences, they also had to deal with some other concerns. “In Egypt, there are only a few movie theatres that are equipped with the needed technology,” says Alyasiri. He says he bore that in mind throughout filming and was aware that he should not solely focus on 4D and completely forget about the 2D experience, which most theaters in Egypt work with.
The action-packed events tell the story of an unfortunate couple in need of extra cash to get married. Punctuated by heart stopping scenes and the bloody end of a few of the film’s characters, the 95 minute movie follows the two lovers as they try to get out of a horrific situation. “I think we did a pretty good job at delivering a true thriller, and other filmmakers should follow this path as well,” Alyasiri says.
Alyasiri is currently keeping up with the movie’s premieres taking place in Cairo, Dubai and even Pakistan. And while he is always on the look out for his next big cinematic adventure, he is waiting to see what kind of impact 122 will have before deciding on his next step. In conclusion, he says, “If I come across another technology that can serve my story well, I will not hesitate to utilise it in order to give the audience a marvelous cinematic experience.”