Philosophy and science fiction seem to always go hand in hand!
Written By: Ahmad & Rana Alyaseer
Directed By: Ahmad Alyaseer
I can’t say I am well versed In Jordanian cinema by any measure. In fact, Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is the first film I have ever seen from the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. I went into this film with little to no expectations. All I knew was that I had been approached about reviewing a film from Jordan, and I’m always looking to expand my international cinematic language. Watching a film from a country that I’ve never seen a film from before sure as heck sounds like a great way to expand my cinematic language.
Almost immediately Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha reminded me of another favorite science fiction film of mine, The Man From Earth. That film was about ideas and discussing said ideas. Exploration was at the heart of The Man From Earth, and the more time that went by in Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha the more the connection hardened in my mind. Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha isn’t about religion in the same way that The Man From Earth is about religion. But, Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is about the exploration of ideas and using a science fiction premise to set up a stage play driven film. The connection to The Man From Earth is present, but Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is very much its own cinematic venture.
The first factor that will enter into play for most viewers of Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is the stage play driven nature of the film. There is only one location used in the film, and there are only two characters throughout the entire run time. There is no action, no big explosions, nor are there any true dramatic beats. Nope, Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is not what one would think of as a traditional science fiction picture. That is in my estimation a major boon to the quality of Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha. There is no worry about fancy camera movements or introducing the next big CG effect. Instead the focus is on the two main, read only, characters and their conversation.
I’m a big fan of science fiction and I love the way that science fiction can be used to explore the basic tenets of humanity. In the case of Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha the science fiction setting is used to briefly touch on quite a few ideas that are big in the present day. What struck me the most was how the film, more specifically the dialogue, handled the ideas of responsibility and consequence. The characters did a lot of dancing in their conversation, but the truth of their words could always be gleaned easily I found. Zad thinks he is a man who bears no responsibility for his actions. The Woman thinks Zad is a man who committed great wrongs and needs to own up for his actions. Both can be seen as right in their arguments, and both could be seen as wrong in their arguments. That is the beauty of Ahmad Alyaseer’s film, it presents ideas for the viewer to think about and allows for said ideas to engender even more brain prodding from the audience.
There were some moments in Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha that I found the acting to be wooden. That is, the one and only true complaint I would lobby against the film. Even then there were only a few instances where I felt the actors mannerisms betrayed some woodenness. Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is a thought provoking science fiction film. In a day and age where most science fiction is focused on what can make the loudest and largest explosion Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is a breath of fresh air in the genre. The ideas presented by the film will give the brain a workout and they will touch on ideas that should be important to the majority of humanity. Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha is a small movie in terms of its production, setting, and characters. But, it is far from a small movie when it comes to its scope and aims. I’m glad that Henama Ykoon El Zaman Untha has allowed me to enter the world of Jordanian cinema and I hope others will take the time to check out this fine science fiction film.