Politics in the Puppeteer (Al-Araguz)

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Abdullah Nasir

Revolution in Egypt

10/15/2014

Politics in the Puppeteer (Al-Araguz)

The movie Al-Araguz, is about a puppeteer whose name is Mohamed Gad El Kareem, and as a single father, raises his son named Bahloul. The movie takes place under Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime after the Revolution of 1952. In his line of work, Mohammed sometimes is conflict with the village mayor because he uses his job to make statements against certain political situations; this conflict can be compared to the movie Al-Karnak. In Al-Karnak, during the time where Nasser began suppressing member of the Muslim Brotherhood, several students were abducted and tortured on grounds of speaking against the regime. Nasser implemented changes to develop a public sector, this provided many of Egypt’s poor to pursue careers in fields such as public education, medicine, it provided governmental cooperatives for farmers, and set minimum wages. As Bahloul grows up practicing the same trade as his father, he reaches an age in which he proclaims that he wishes to continue his education in the city of Cairo, the product of Nasser’s reforms post-revolution. His father humbly obliges and sends him off, and financially supports him. During a carnival where Mohamed sets up his puppeteering booth, he encounters a struggle between a corrupt pasha and a gypsy girl named Enaam. The pasha had arranged for his men to accuse the girl of being a thief in order to procure her for himself. As they were dragging her along to take her to their master, Mohamed does not intervene, and is accused of being immoral by a fellow carnival worker. As it goes, Enaam escapes the pasha and walks her way back to the carnival; however, she is injured and stops on the side of the road, and who should meet her there other than the Puppeteer himself. He bandages her injury and proceeds to invite her into his home where they are to fall in love and ultimately get married.

During this ordeal, the movie starts to illustrate the effects of politics on the personality of its “victims.” As the movie progresses it shows Bahloul’s development into a cold-hearted opportunist for the sake of power, wealth, and fame. In the process of his education, Bahloul falls in love with the daughter of none other than the same corrupt pasha who had tried to abduct Enaam. Bahloul eventually seizes this opportunity to climb the latter of politics. This is an example of how much influence and power that office-holders had during the Nasser Regime; this is because of the heavy emphasis on Nasser’s changes to give more power to Egypt’s rising public sector. For the sake of such progress, Bahloul begins working for the pasha, in the process of which he also does “favors” for him, namely procuring women of the pasha’s taste. Thus begins the corruption of the son of a humble puppeteer as he begins to sacrifice his morals in order to achieve political gain. This decline in values will cause a very significant rift between father and son, the first of which is evident when his father comes to visit Bahloul, simply because he misses his son. Bahloul however, questions his motives by accusing him of coming to see if he had to send more money, or even if he wanted money from Bahloul, which in turn sends a broken-hearted father home.

Later on in the movie, the pasha provides Bahloul with an opportunity to be a manager of a developmental project that would host modern amenities such as shipping centers, spas, and the like. This, however, comes with a price, it must take place in the region around and including his home village. This is where the true struggles of morals versus politics are most evident. As previously mentioned, Nasser’s heavy emphasis on the development of a public sector has served as a catalyst for an increased speed and support for modernized developments. That being said, many of the office holders gained massive support from the government, but also from the masses of Egypt’s citizens who had been deprived of progress through King Farouq’s rule before the Revolution. However, there were also people that were opposed to such rapid changes because of their beliefs in its power to corrupt, and in this movie they would be represented by the Puppeteer. Bahloul’s father owns land in this village, and he remains the greatest obstacle in his son’s way. Bahloul, having married the pasha’s daughter, further consolidates his power against him. Bahloul uses this as leverage against his father in law, the reason being that regional elections are coming up, and Bahloul himself sees an opportunity to take the position so that he may become independent and more powerful than the pasha.

His plans are thwarted however, for Mohamed the Puppeteer is by now completely against his son. He displays this by giving his son a bad reputation by walking around the village and using his puppets to communicate the corruption of his son, including bringing around the children of the village to repeat what he himself is saying. The mayor of the village (another representative of an office-holder and supporter of the power of the public sector) realizes the threat to Bahloul’s project and chances of gaining votes, since he is on Bahloul’s side in this scheme. Bahloul realizes this and finds a way to get the police to arrest his father so that he is detained in the duration of his campaigning. During this time, Bahloul had imprisoned his own wife in the home of one of the villagers because the pasha threatened him for daring to take his post. Enaam manages to free Mohamed, and the couple join Bahloul in the speech. Using his puppets to create a loud distraction, Mohamed and his wife start walking towards Bahloul when Enaam notices an assassin (sent by Bahloul’s father-in-law), and in trying to save Mohamed and Bahloul, is shot instead. In the end, Mohamed is left with yet another motherless child, and that is where the movie ends, leaving the viewer to experience the tragic downfalls of Nasser’s regime.

 

Sources:

  • The Puppeteer [Al-Araguz]. Hany Lasheen. 1989. Film.