Directed by Youssef Marzouq and written by Mohamed Gamal El-Din Raafat, Al-Khatem Al-Masy (The Diamond Ring, 1961) is considered the first detective series in the history of Egyptian television, created in 1960. 1963, the genre gained popularity when Nour El-Demerdash directed Hareb min Al-Ayam (Fugitive of Days), with a screenplay by Faisal Nada based on a novel by Tharwat Abaza.
Crime stories were central to thriller writers until screenwriter Saleh Morsi and director Yehia El Alami made the spy series Dumou Fi Oyoun Waqiha (Tears in Bold Eyes, 1980), starring Adel Imam and based on Egyptian General Intelligence files. They followed with Raafat Al-Haggan (1988), a huge three-season hit starring Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, also based on previously classified information. The two played on patriotic sentiments despite the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel and the push for normalization.
More recently, the spy drama has instead focused on the War on Terror, with the antagonist being an unnamed foreigner rather than an Israeli intel. This year in Al-Aedoun (The Returnees), screenwriter Baher Dewidar and director Ahmed Galal rely on general intelligence files in which officers gathered information on the Islamic State (IS). The main characters are officer Omar (Amir Karara), his superior Nabil (Mahmoud Abdel-Moghni) and his IT colleague Nadin (Amina Khalil). There is a human dimension in the character evident from the first episode. Nadine’s mother (Safaa Al-Toukhi), who is terminally ill, dies at the end of the episode, leaving her father (Mohamed Hassib) so depressed he won’t talk to anyone. Omar has to take care of his daughter for a week since his divorced wife goes to work in Dubai, while Nabil’s wife despairs of having a child because the couple suffers from a fertility problem. The three characters must leave their families for a risky operation.
In the first two episodes, the storyline follows Hussien or Abu-Mosaab (Mohamed Farrag), an ISIS deputy security commander planted by Egyptian intelligence many years before. When he informs Omar of a planned operation, he is exposed and burned to death, but another exposed undercover agent manages to escape. Every two episodes a new adventure arises, with the overall plot seeming ever thinner, though the overall theme is how to deal with ISIS’s breach of Egyptian national security. Although the first and second episodes were very promising, the flow of drama and suspense does not evolve as it should. This may be because the series has two goals at the same time: to create a traditional thriller drama and to draw public attention to the great effort of the intelligence and security services to eliminate terrorist activities in Egypt.
Over the past couple of years, director Peter Mimi’s television series Al-Ikhtiar (The Choice) has gone from strength to strength. The first season, written by Baher Dewidar, framed his hero-villain story in a classic drama format with the story of two military officers. One is an Egyptian special forces commander in North Sinai killed in an ambush by Islamic jihadist terrorists at the village of Al-Barth near Rafah in 2017. The other is a deserter who first joined Ansar Beit Al-Maqdes in Sinai and Libya, where he formed his own al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Mourabitoun, before being executed in 2020. The second season, The Choice: The Shadow Men, written by Hani Sarhan, s focuses on the challenges the police faced securing Egypt after the ousting of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) following nationwide protests from June 30 to July 3, 2013.
This year’s The Choice: The Decision – also by Sarhan – looks back on the final months before Morsi’s ouster to document different areas of life in Egypt and provide a broader view of what led to the military decision to put end to the MB diet. Before the opening credits, a few shots illustrating the last minutes before the declaration of July 3 hint at the subject. The drama is multi-layered. One layer concerns ordinary people such as Mahmoud (Mahmoud El-Bezzawi), a disciplined former civil servant who is passed over for a promotion in favor of a less expert colleague who happens to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Maurice (Nour Mahmoud), a Christian pharmacist who faces aggression from an extremist customer while refusing to give in to his wife Irine’s (Samar Morsi) desire to emigrate now that the MBs are in power.
The second layer, perhaps the main part of the drama, is about national security officer Zakaria Younis (Karim Abdel-Aziz) who tracks the terrorist group known as Madinat Nasr Cell, military intelligence officer Mustafa (Ahmed Al-Saqqa) investigating terrorist activities in Sinai. , and General Intelligence Officer Marwan (Ahmed Ezz) intercepting a shipment of weapons arriving by ship. All three cases seem to lead to the MB direction. At first glance, the fact that the three officers are old friends seems forced, but the screenwriter adds a lot of human details as he did in the last season. Mustafa’s wife suffers from a rare and life-threatening disease. Marwan’s father, a judge, is also ill, while Marwan himself is interested in a girl named Basma (Mirna Nour El-Din) with a view to marrying her. Zakaria, on the other hand, continues to visit the family of his informant – who was murdered by the terrorists – in order to help them. He also visits Ali (Mohamed Abu-Dawoud), a former National Security Major General who was removed from his post following interference by the MBs.
The third layer concerns what happens at the highest level, with discussions between Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (Ahmed Bedier) and Major General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi (Yasser Galal), or between the new Minister of Defense Al-Sisi and Major General Abbas Kamel (Gamal Solieman). The series also depicts members of the Guidance Office of the Muslim Brotherhood such as Supreme Leader Mohamed Badie (Abdel-Aziz Makhyoon) as well as personalities such as Mohamed Morsi (Sabry Fawwaz), Khairat El-Shater (Khaled El-Sawy), Mahmoud Ezzat (Magdi Said), Saad Al-Katatni (Bayoumi Fouad) and Mohamed Al-Beltagy (Hesham Ismail). While the acting in the first and second layers is fair, it is less so in the third, as it requires emulating real-life characters, although El-Sawy and Makhyoon have come up with their own versions. of Al-Shater or Badie. The storyline covers events such as the Rafah massacre of August 5, 2012, Al-Shater’s decision to give Mohamed Morsi legitimacy to dismiss Defense Minister Tantawi, and the Al-Ittihadiya protest in December 2012, during which peaceful demonstrators, including journalist Al-Husseini Abu -Dief were killed.
Besides her talent as an action director, Mimi uses a documentary technique in almost every episode, ending it with real footage of political meetings involving MB members. Such images help explain some of the MB’s true intentions to exert total control over Egyptian politics. In one episode, Morsi is seen with Al-Sisi and Tantawi in the latter’s office at the Ministry of Defense after the 2012 presidential elections, in which Morsi appeared to warn the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of the serious consequences in the streets. should there be “a change in the results of the election”. These images have never been shown before, regardless of the fact that most Egyptians know how the MBs threatened the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at that time.
* A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.