Always a Blessing: "The Burdened" review

English Daily #1
THE BURDENED (2023) / Regional Panorama
Amr Gamal
Yemen/Sudan/Saudi Arabia
10.7 10:00 Cinema House Grand
14.7 16:00 Moscow Cinema Red Hall

Aden, Yemen, ravished by war. Streets roamed by armed soldiers on pickup trucks and security checkpoints on every corner. And yet the camera in Amr Gamal’s The Burdened is so distant and emotionless, one gets the feeling that it’s just life as usual for the city’s dwellers, namely Ahmed and Isra’a and their three children, as they go about their daily chores in their family van.

Gamal is primarily a theater director and playwright, yet in his sophomore feature he displays a very distinct understanding of cinematic techniques, mostly achieved through the chilling, almost naturalistic wide shots of the dusty streets and the slow methodical camera moves, where we see the city living its normal life, surrounded by occasional ruins. Society finds a way to function in all conditions, however at times it comes with the cost of disfigured morals. Therefore, it is only natural that Ahmed, who has not received a paycheck in three months, has immediately decided on abortion after hearing that Isra’a is pregnant once again. Friends keep insisting that a child is always God’s blessing, yet Ahmed has more earthly concerns, like the prospect of having another mouth to feed. Isra’a is unsure if termination is the answer, yet she goes along with her husband on a quest of finding a legal loophole to do an abortion in a Muslim country.

Even though money is constantly brought up, there doesn’t seem to be an indication that more money would have made things better. In one scene Ahmed doesn’t even have the time to let his excited kids look at a donkey behind a wall. And in the films context, this is not simply an understandable gesture of an annoyed parent, but part of this creepy unspoken feeling going through the whole film that maybe in a post-war world children in general are simply unwelcome.

Artur Vardikyan