Mood, Directed by Mahmoud Yossry
Mood is an Egyptian film with the feel of a homemade movie. It takes place entirely within an apartment in Cairo, where Mahmoud Yossry documents his father’s musings on life. The film is dedicated to his father, who also determines the film’s subject matter by whatever comes out of his mouth. Sometimes his observations are profound, and sometimes they aren’t, but either way the film gives extraordinary leeway to its dedicatee. Yossry’s film follows the words of his father, refusing to censor his words nor stop when things get out of hand.
Apart from occasional cameos by his wife (whom he complains about on-camera), the film follows Yossry’s father in his apartment, moving from the sofa to his bed and back again, delivering sometimes-interesting lines about life. He laments the changes of the modern world, including television and the internet, which have made information so accessible that nobody appreciates it anymore. He longs for the days when he and his friends would all gather together to watch a single videotape. Because not everyone had a VCR player and a television, watching a video required them to gather together. Nowadays, he complains, the immediate and easy access of cable television allows everyone to watch whatever they want whenever they want. There is no suspense, and certainly no appreciation. Even worse, now that everyone has a television of their own, there is no reason to gather together anymore. The internet has a similar effect, he says, but even worse. For him, the internet becomes like a substitute for human connection. Alone in his apartment he has little human interaction, and the internet provides unlimited and unending diversion from his unhappy existence. It does so for everyone, he says.
He has a point when he talks about his atomised society and the technologies which, while useful, also divert us from the real world and from each other. The paradox of proliferating mass consumption is the deterioration of community when the practical need for it disappears. Music, for him, is an escape from a world that he no longer understands, an outlet and a source of happiness in an unhappy life. If he had the choice, he claims, he would not choose to be born. ‘I’m depressed’, he says.
Yossry diligently documents every word from his father in his short documentary, and in doing so he gives far too much leeway to his subject — to be expected perhaps when a director makes a documentary about his own kin. The latter spouts so much of his own philosophy on life that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of his monologue, which is sometimes incoherent but always personal. In talking to the camera, he talks directly to his son. Yossry captures that testimony and makes it public, but the documentary is still inherently personal, with little significance to those who don’t already know the characters involved.
The final product is very flawed, from the terribly shaky camerawork and off-focus views to the jolting cuts between scenes. The sheer quantity of film retained in the final product, despite its poor quality, makes clear the purpose of the documentary: to document every bit of wisdom from the subject, however banal. The film attempts to make things more interesting with standard film scores from the likes of John Williams and Clint Eastwood, along with sound effects that attempt to heighten the tension, but the result is mere melodrama — occasionally interesting, but on the whole a strange and plodding bore. ■
Length: 22 minutes
Genre: Documentary Short
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Mahmoud Yossry is an Egyptian independent filmmaker who studied at Cairo’s High Cinema Institute. He directed his first film in 2012, the documentary A Man, which won the documentary directing award at the Amsterdam Film Festival, the platinum award for documentary films at the Cinerockom Film Festival in Hollywood, California, and the award for best short documentary by a first-time director at the Egyptian National Film Festival. Mood is his second documentary film. Connect with Mahmoud Yossry on LinkedIn.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: ‘Mood’. Courtesy; Mahmoud Yossry.