Monday May 20th, 2024
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Cannes 2023: Egypt’s ‘I Promise You Paradise’ Delivers On Its Promise

CairoScene editor-at-large Wael Khairy reviews Morad Mostafa’s refugee drama ‘I Promise You Paradise’ at Cannes Film Festival.

Cairo Scene

Cannes 2023: Egypt’s ‘I Promise You Paradise’ Delivers On Its Promise

Morad Mostafa’s I Promise You Paradise is a brilliant exercise in minimalism. Following a violent street fight that results in the death of three of his peers, Eissa, an African migrant in Egypt, attempts to smuggle his loved ones out of the country as soon as he can. With barely any dialogue, Kenyi Marcellino conveys a quiet intensity that is simply impossible to turn away from. He drives around a landscape that almost feels post-apocalyptic, as if drifting in the ruins of a land where people seldom speak. The camera is always fixated on his gaze. His eyes remain ever-fixed, piercing empty space.

Award-winning cinematographer, Mostafa El Kashef, captures some of the most beautifully composed frames you’ll see all year. The last sequence in particular is nothing short of remarkable. At one point, the film cuts to various expressions of deep sadness, the faces of melancholia looking out at the distant sea in complete utter fear. Sometimes there is no need for words; the face speaks volumes. I Promise You Paradise could deliver Egypt its second Palme d’Or for short films, and I can’t wait to see what Morad Mostafa tackles next. He demonstrates an incredible understanding of what it takes to create a hard-boiled pulp noir.

There is no shortage of refugee films out there, as it should be, but rarely do they feel like an entrancing fever dream. A slick retro ride that is more interested in establishing mood and atmosphere than wasting its time with melodrama, I Promise You Paradise certainly delivers on its promise. In fact, the hypnotic musical score combined with the entrancing imagery would give Nicolas Winding Refn a run for his money. This film is everything I hoped it would be; riveting cinema.

I Promise You Paradise is competing in the Critic’s Week section of the Cannes Film Festival and is distributed by Egypt’s Film Clinic.