Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Having recently endured his wife’s death, cured leper Beshay (Rady Gamal, himself a member of an Egyptian leper colony) goes on the road to seek out his long lost family. Beshay, who thinks he’s about 40, was dumped as a small child in the leper colony he has always known as home, and now, veil in place to avoid shocking his fellow Egyptians with his scarred and deformed visage, his curiosity about his family and the outside world spur him to action. Unbeknownst to Beshay, however, his donkey-driven cart contains a stowaway: the 10-year-old ragamuffin (Ahmed Abdelhafiz), nicknamed Obama, to whom Beshay has grown close… Director A.B. Shawky made a documentary short about the very leper colony featured here, which helps account for the no-nonsense realism of the visuals he chose to use for his feature debut. As Beshay and Obama face the inevitable ordeals engendered by their arduous trip—not least the ignorance and prejudice of others, who are repulsed by Beshay’s appearance—Shawky crafts a deeply affecting picaresque.
"A simple story told with abundant gentleness, Yomeddine looks at a group of outcasts with such compassion and generosity that it has the good manners not to artificially inflate their tale with phony uplift… The danger with such material is that Shawky might trip over into condescending sentimentality, reducing his character to a cutesy caricature. Thankfully, Yomeddine avoids that pitfall, helped enormously by Gamal’s funny, vulnerable performance."—Tim Grierson, Screen