One-Zero -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

Women's issues are big in Egyptian films this year and young filmmaker Kamla Abu Zekri packs strong feelings into "One-Zero," a multi-character portrait of unhappy relationships set in Cairo. Fast-paced, close-up and buzzing with a snappy soundtrack, "One-Zero" has been both a popular and critical hit locally. Abroad, its accessible style and hot topic should give it a push on the festival circuit, with possible limited engagements theatrically.

All the action takes place in a single day of interwoven stories. A veiled young nurse (Nelly Karim) earns a meager income making house calls and giving shots, while her beautiful sister Nina (convincingly played by young actress Zeina), who is breaking in as a sexy pop singer, goes on a TV show where the host Sherif (Khaled Abol Naga) cruelly humiliates her.

Nevine (Elham Shahin) is a wealthy Christian woman, no longer young; surprisingly, she is the lover of the same handsome young TV host Sherif, but he brutally refuses to marry her or start a family when she discovers she's pregnant.

Hoda (Enterssar) is an outspoken beautician perennially at odds with her hairdresser son (Ahmed El Fishawy) and her own humiliations.

The stories, skillfully interwoven by editor Moni Rabi, climax in a big soccer game, with all of Egypt watching. During the game, half of the cast ends up at the police station, where they are summarily sent home after Egypt wins 1-0. The frantic celebrations that block traffic in the street mask but don't erase all the drama that has gone before.

Mariam Naoum's screenplay subtly highlights the complexity of its characters by putting them through unexpected twists of personality; Sherif, for instance, seems like a bounder until he runs over a little street boy while drunk and responsibly takes him to the hospital. The strait-laced nurse gets arrested while on a date, and the Barbie doll singer works to support her family -- but even that fixed image is turned around by film's end.

Nancy Abdel Fattah's whipping camera grabs the noisy, colorful chaos of lower-class neighborhoods, pumped by Khaled Shukry's lively score.

Venue: Venice Film Festival -- Horizons/Orrizonti

Production company: Cinema Sector - Egyptian Media Production City
Cast: Elham Shahin, Nelly Karim, Khaled Abol Naga, Ahmed El Fishawy, Zeina, Entessar, Lotfy Labib
Director: Kamla Abu Zekri
Screenwriter: Mariam Naoum
Executive producer: Aly Meselhy
Producer: Mamdouh El Leithy
Director of photography: Nancy Abdel Fattah
Production designer: Amir Abd El-Aaty
Music: Khaled Shukri
Costumes: Dalia Youssef
Editor: Mona Rabi
Sales Agent: Cinema Sector - Egyptian Media Production City
105 minutes