The well that is Egyptian sci-fi cinema isn’t exactly overflowing, or even half-full (sci-fi movies made by Egyptian filmmakers, that tell stories centered around Egyptian characters); and as a lover of sci-fi movies in general, who also wants to see more filmmakers of the diaspora work within the genre, this project immediately had my attention!
In a deal announced at Cannes (which kicked off today), a film adaptation of Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s 2010 bestselling novel (also hailed a masterpiece), titled "Utopia" is in the works.
The apocalyptic tale will be adapted by Egyptian filmmaker Rami Imam.
The relatively-short (192-pages) novel is set in a dystopian Egypt in the year 2023: "The decadent rich live in secured compounds while the poor are trapped outside in a dog-eat-dog world. In this setting, a young man and a young girl venture out of their gated communities to see for themselves what their country is really like."
If it sounds familiar, it’s because, well, it is. We’ve seen several futuristic movies that tackle the class divide (whether directly, or otherwise) – most recently, see Neill Blomkamp’s (underwhelming) "Elysium" to start.
But wait… the story in "Utopia" becomes even more intriguing…
A review I read on Amazon elaborates, painting a fuller portrait of the universe the story is set in, and the motivations of its characters: "’Utopia’ is set in the early 2020s. The world has changed, primarily because petroleum-based products — specifically oil — have been replaced by the synthetic ‘biroil’, formulated in 2010, and so the oil-producing countries of the Middle East (among others) are no longer able to rake in the easy cash and have been reduced to peripheral states again. The situation in Egypt is a different one: here a society already polarized between haves and have-nots is destroyed when the middle-class evaporates. What remains is an upper class that remains in complete control over the economy, and the vast majority that lives at the lowest of subsistence levels. Protected by American guards, life here is one of indolent and decadent luxury, where anything goes — "as long as you don’t infringe on the property of the rest of Utopia’s residents". The young narrator of much of the story is typical of his generation, able to do almost entirely as he pleases, indulging in sex and drugs and dangerous recreation. He’s also pretty bored — as he’s stuck: "In Utopia, where looking for a way to pass every minute of your life consumes you." He has an idea for a new challenge, however. He wants to go hunting. Hunting an ‘Other’ — those less-than-humans on the outside. Their lives are essentially worthless, and it sounds pretty exciting. With his girlfriend, he hatches a plan to leave Utopia and visit the world of the Others. Knowing that a simple phone call will then bring out the cavalry — or rather the Marines — and safely shuttle them back home. Of course, it doesn’t turn out to be quite as simple as all that. Utopia switches back and forth between being narrated by the nameless Utopian, and an ‘Other’ from outside Utopia — ‘Predator’ and ‘Prey’ as the alternating chapter-titles have it. Though it’s not quite as simple as that either. The ‘Other’ recognizes that the Utopian and his girlfriend are not from around here — as does most everyone else who gives them much more than a glance — but he decides to protect them. Fatalistic from the start, he nevertheless sees (with his one good eye) that this is what he has to do: get these two fishes-out-of-water back to where they belong – Utopia."
I’d guess that, along the way, they trio bonds, and the Utopians become less Utopian. And by the time they return to Utopia, they aren’t quite the same people they were when they left it to "hunt" the other. And their reintroduction into Utopia acts as a kind of "cure" that spreads throughout Utopia, ushering in a different kind of existence – one in which the existing class divide gradually evaporates.
Just a guess, as I said. I haven’t read the novel. But I will, as soon as I get my hands of a copy. If you’d like to do the same click here.
If you’ve read the novel, feel free to chime in.
The film adaptation has yet to be cast, but director Imam revealed to Variety that he plans to go after at least one high-profile American actor for a role in the movie. He didn’t say what actors are on his list, but that they would play one of the American marines protecting Utopia. and what part they’d be playing.
The project is being developed by director Rami Imam’s production company, the Cairo-based True Motion, which he’ll also produce along with a number of international special effects companies, to make sure he gets the absolute best in visual design.
"Utopia requires a gargantuan and exceptional effort in visual and special effects, a la Marvel Studios, including green screens and CG shots highlighting both worlds," Imam said.
I’m sure it does, and I hope he gets what he wants!
No ETA on "Utopia" yet.