To the average onlooker, Mohamed Khan 's "Before the Summer Crowds" might seem like just a beautifully shot summertime tale about four neighbors exploring the complicated world of relationships in a seaside resort on Egypt's North Coast.
Right before it gets swarmed by crowds in its busy summer season, Yehia, a middle-aged doctor played by Maged El-Kedwany, heads to the uninhabited resort to escape a possible hospital scandal in Cairo.
While staying there with his wife Magda, played by Lana Mushtaq, his gaze falls on his neighbor Hala. The beautiful and recently divorced translator, played by Hana Shiha, is staying there to secretly rendezvous with her lover Hesham, a struggling actor played by Hany El-Metennawy.
But the veteran director's star-studded ensemble crosses the boundaries of the personal into the realm of the social.
The crossing is made possible through Ahmed Dawood 's character Gom'aa. The resort's fifth inhabitant just finished his military service and has come to temporarily fill in for his brother as the gardener for the cabins.
"I wanted to mock the social relationships of Hala’s class. To do that, I wanted us to see the film through the eyes of Gom'aa's character, who is watching this unfamiliar world," Khan told StepFeed.
"The difference in social class between Gom'aa and the people living in the resort causes some turmoil in his personality and makes him do some strange antics."
"Before the Summer Crowds" chronicles the journey of an outsider, as he immerses himself in a world where people score points for who got their overpriced seaside spot first, judge others for doing in public what they do in private and all the while claim they're above it all.
Khan, one of the pioneers of realism in Egyptian cinema, unsurprisingly crafted his social commentary from real-life experience.
His inspiration came from his own personal experience staying in a near-empty Egyptian resort before the summer, which got him thinking about the people who stay in these resorts at that time of year and their secrets.
Adding to the realistic feel of the film is Khan's choice to shoot in an actual resort without added props. Khan also chose to shoot the film in one month in its actual sequence of events, Shiha said she was most impressed with this aspect of filming, describing it as a "camp which lasted for a month on the shore, which created this state of freedom."
"I believe that it will take the audience to another place, to black and white cinema, a cinema of dreamy romance, taking us all back to beauty," she added.
After enjoying a well-received run on the festival circuit, which included the Dubai International Film Festival, the film was recently released in Egyptian theaters by Cairo and Abu Dhabi-based distributor Mad Solutions . It is set for release in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on April 28 and in Tunisia, Iraq and Oman in early May.
Khan hopes the audience can see a reflection of reality in the film, which he says is "very clear in the choice of characters and behaviors as well as the hidden motives which one can discover throughout the film."
But despite the fact that the story, which Khan describes as a "quest for love with a sense of humor," satirizes the flawed hypocrisies of Egypt's wealthiest, Khan doesn't allow the film to pass its own verdict. He is leaving that to the audience.
"I don't think I am qualified enough as a social examiner of any class of Egyptian society, I would rather be considered just an observer not a judge," he said.