EGYPT: Clash (اشتبا, 2016)

Identity Loss in Chaos

by Melissa Burnham

This video essay emphasizes the juxtaposition of human identity, and the absence of human identity in violent conflicts.

For 30 years Egypt was suppressed through a strict and militant regime orchestrated by Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was known for his favorable policy and sometimes inexcusable positive bias towards the west. He was also known for his viscous tendencies at home to eradicate opposition, from simply beating citizens in the street to orchestrating assassinations and arresting political opponents. Throughout this time Egyptians saw little freedom and little economic growth or prosperity.

Frustrated by their lack of rights in 2011 Egyptians decided to take to the streets for days in order to protest for change. The protesters demanded that Mubarak step down. The police spewed tear gas and water jets into the protesters and even fired ammunition over their heads. The protesters threw rocks back. The clashes were violent and brutal, and eventually Mubarak finally conceded. At least 849 protesters were killed, thousands of more were injured, and some were even tortured and jailed. (Al Jazeera)

Clash is a movie directed by Egyptian Mohammed Diab. The entire movie takes place in a van during the Egyptian Revolution. From the very start when a Journalist and his camera man are shoved in by police, to the very end when the passengers are all being ripped out by protestors, the camera stays inside. Frequently the lenses are pressed against the windows of the van, giving a glimpse of the chaos of protest scenes. However, the van serves as a controlled environment, which enables you to understand the true personality of each character.

From the family spearheaded by the headstrong mother, to the man who dreams of being an actor and singer despite his off-rhythm thumping and poor voice, you begin to learn the characters. They come from all sides, the devout Muslim and his daughter who support the brotherhood, and the pro-government group of friends. Despite their raging differences for the most part they exist peacefully within the van, and at the end just try their best to survive.

This video essay juxtaposes the very humanistic encounters, full of identity and character with the inhumane and un-individual chaos of the riots. In an attempt to prove how mass violence, especially against those who are advocating for basic rights, robs peoples of their identities and sometimes even their lives this video essay contrasts the personality shots with scenes of mass violence. Herds of people either shrouded in smoke, lasers or surrounded by so many others it’s hard to make a distinction are captured beautifully through the metal bars of the van.

This constant conflict and violent clashes between the protesters and the police have a grave effect on the people in the van. They watch as people are killed by rocks and bullets, they watch as crowds trample people and run to hide from tear gas and bullets. A motif throughout the whole movie is a game of tic-tac-toe played between two children. The daughter of a Muslim Brotherhood member and a son from a protesting family. They scratch the x’s and the o’s onto the walls of the van, but are ripped from the van before their game can be finished. When identity is lost in conflict and revolutions, when so much inhumanity occurs, who really wins?


  • Al Jazeera. Timeline: Egypt’s revolution. 14 Feb 2011. 28 Novembor 2018.

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