This week’s film takes us to Egypt, and that universally terrifying place: a boys’ middle school. The horror!
The Film: Excuse My French
Where to Watch: Netflix (US)
The Uncondensed Version:
As our film opens, Hany is the only child in a wealthy Egyptian family. He attends private school, where he excels academically and is quite popular. Hany’s family is Christian, and he enjoys attending church. He is something of an Anglophile, supporting Manchester United and imagining himself the Egyptian Harry Potter. All seems to be well in Hany’s life until his father suddenly dies, leaving Hany and his cellist mother with very little income.
Since the family can no longer afford Hany’s expensive private school, he will attend the local public school for boys, whose students are almost all Muslim. His mother gives him 2 instructions: 1. Don’t make friends, and 2. Don’t talk about religion.
Hany is off to an unfortunate start, sticking out like a sore thumb when he corrects the English teacher’s grammar and points out “Hasta la vista, baby,” is not English, nor is it a line from a classic novel.
The structure of this film is a bit loose, but revolves mostly around Hany’s efforts to fit in with the other students while hiding his identity as a religious minority. He manages to make a friend in Mo’men, though he makes a decided enemy in the form of Aly, bully and overall unpleasant character. He is thrilled when his crush, science teacher Nelly, encourages him to develop and present a scientific project to the school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not a single student is impressed by such nerdy feats of engineering.
Hany is able to fly under the radar for a long time despite skipping out on afternoon prayer and hearing from Mo’men that he can tell a Christian from a mile away. Of course it’s not until Hany gains power and popularity that things start to unravel. Hany is named class president despite never running for the position–this school does not do elections the same way my school did.
To fit in better, Hany begins participating in prayer at school, and even enters a religious chanting competition.
The situation begins to deteriorate when Hany overhears some older boys planning to follow and grope Nelly. Typical boy, Hany advises her to dress more modestly rather than reporting the boys to the principal (RAGE). After the incident, the boys are expelled, but the trouble is only beginning. Kids are getting beaten up left and right, and I lost track a bit of who and why.
Shortly after, Hany’s identity as a Christian is revealed, he begins taking judo, and he deliberately antagonizes Aly. Why and what does he hope to accomplish?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
I really looked forward to seeing a perspective on being a religious minority that is the majority for the US, but I felt a lot of the emphasis was on the behavior of the boys as little creeps rather than as Muslims/Christians.
Also not quite as uplifting as expected? This isn’t really a heartwarming story of acceptance and religious tolerance–Hany’s classmates never try to be particularly welcoming to him. However, Hany is a little asshole for so much of the movie, and deliberately bringing in sandwiches to eat during Ramadan is a pretty fucked up thing to do. I hoped there would be quite lot of time dedicated to Hany’s relationship with his mother as well. Though they get along well, there seems to be a lack of emotional depth in their relationship.
Overall, I think watching this film proves irrefutably that I don’t understand children.