The Burdened (2023) Berlinale 2023 | Panorama

February 20th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Amr Gamal; Cast: Khaled Hamdan, Abeer Mohammed, Samah Alamrani, Awsam Abdulrahman; South Yemen/Sudan 2023, 91 min.

Polish-born Yemenite director Amr Gamal follows his 2018 feature debut Ten Days before the Wedding – the first to come out of the Yemen in 30 years – with a solemn and understated family drama.

Adopting a docudrama style Gamal paints a grim view of his country with this subdued ‘case study’. It’s October 2019 and the Yemenite capital of Aden is in social and economic turmoil with Isra’a (Mohammed) and Ahmed (Hamdan) amongst the victims of the economic crisis, with their fourth child on the way. Ahmed is still waiting to be paid by his employer, the state TV station, and his political persuasions prevent him from working for one of the private TV channels, although his wife is determined to have their kids educated in the private system. The couple seem caught between their political and their financial possibilities, and Ahmed has started to beat his wife.

But the most urgent problem is getting rid of the unplanned baby. Isra’a’s relative Muna is a doctor at the local hospital, but has refused them an abortion in the past on account of her own strict Islamist views. Trying to persuade her otherwise, Isra’a sends a video of a Koran scholar explaining that abortion is ‘Halal’ until the foetus develops a soul after 120 days. Grudgingly Muna agrees, but then Ahmed has to bribe the ER doctor for his signature to let the surgery go ahead. Meanwhile Isra’a realises the abortion will be the end to her friendship with Muna.

In the streets of the capital conflicting militias are fighting pitch battles for supremacy, make simple driving a hazard, Ahmed’s taxi – a loss making business – is damaged by one of their convoys, with little hope of repair.  DoP Mrinal Desai captures the mayhem with a handheld camera following hot on the heels of Ahmed and his beleaguered family, their own private civil war providing a metaphor for the state of the nation. AS




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