Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2016. Hurwitz Creative, Sarkasmos Productions. Screenplay by Sara Taksler. Cinematography by Wail Gzoly. Produced by Maziar Bahari, Monica Hampton, Frédéric Rose, Sara Taksler. Music by Paul Tyan. Film Editing by Jamie Canobbio, Thomas M. Vogt, Tyler H. Walk.
A successful Cairo surgeon reacts to the country’s growing dissatisfaction with the decades-long reign of Mubarak with a series of YouTube videos whose combination of pointed political criticism and satire gets him millions of views and national fame. By the time of the Morsi regime, Bassem Youssef has left medicine behind to host his own show, called quite humorously, “The Show”, which turns him into what is often referred to as the Jon Stewart of Egypt (he eventually, in a very charming sequence, has Stewart as a guest). Youssef reaches the zenith of show business popularity until Morsi is unseated by General El-Sisi, and making jokes about a leader who is a lot less unpopular than his predecessor is enough to get Youssef and company into hot water. We’re not just talking about heated debates and network cancellations, either, but sending the wife and kids to a safer place to avoid threats of violence. Former Daily Show producer Sara Taksler directs this probing, powerful documentary that looks at the terrible reality of censorship under a military regime that claims to have brought freedom to a nation whose opinions, at least in this case, it has undeniably suppressed. Watching Youssef handle the road he has traveled with such charming and jokey aplomb is a pleasure in itself, the film is a terrific combination of harrowing political reality and lighthearted fun.