In 2020, most of us locked the door to our home and stayed inside with an uneasy hope that the world would someday start to make sense again. It was…well, different. Planet Earth took a collective pause and whispered to itself “It will be allright…I hope.” Film writer Youssef Gouda began this process along with the rest of us but then quickly decided he’d go mad if he continued. His solution was to create a film in which he would not only serve as every member of the crew but also star in. The resulting Everything is Going to be Okay encapsulates the essence of what last year felt like for so many. It is raw and unpolished, and better for it. Like the most lauded street artists or respected Punk bands, the unvarnished truth of the film transcends high-production value to instead solidify itself as a touchstone for 2020. An unexpected blend of horror and optimism, Everything is Going to be Okay was the closing film at a Pandemic Film Festival, Pandemic Paradiso, and has also played at the Cairo Black Box Theatre. The genius of this film is not that it displays the pandemic experience (spoiler alert, it’s not a pandemic story) but rather that it transfers this feeling to a completely different scenario, while activating that sensory memory we all have tried to bury in our subconscious about what life in 2020 was like.
Everything is Going to be Okay takes place during the pandemic but unlike other films, Covid is not the star of the film. Unlike so many films which focused on this unprecedented historical moment, Youssef used the pandemic as “table setting” to establish the disconnection that manifested a baseline of uncomfortability for many of us. The story’s main character is an animator who lives alone, working on a cartoon about a cat who reassuringly remarks, “Everything is going to be okay.” We watch this animator work through CCTV cameras in his home while odd occurrences become increasingly frequent. Lights turn themselves off and something unrecognizable creeps in the shadows. These incendiary elements drive the animator into a declining state of paranoia and fear. Everything is Going to be Okay is a unformulaic pandemic Horror film, in the best of all possible ways. Nothing about the story is paint by numbers or expected, leaving the audience with the conclusion that they never had a clue what direction the action would take from moment to moment.
Youssef Gouda displays ample creativity in both the story and the way it is presented; a fact that he contributes to the lack of physical resources. He divulges, “I had nothing. Let me empathize, I had NOTHING. I had an empty house, my bedroom and a crappy IPhone 6 with a broken camera. But that’s what I had and dammit, I’m making a movie. My first problem was figuring out how to position my phone as a security camera and make sure it’s roughly the same height throughout. I ripped out my shower rod from the wall. Taped a water bottle to the top and carved a slot in the water bottle to fit the phone in. It was a lot of trial and error but eventually I fashioned a tripod that I could mount anywhere I wanted in the house. I had to film at night and, let me reiterate, I am terrified of the dark. So the scenes where the lights went out I can only film for 30 seconds because I was too scared being alone in the dark. And that’s how the process went, my favorite story to tell is how I had to fashion a dead corpse by stuffing my clothes with towels to make a body and hang it from the ceiling, if any neighbor looked through the window, they surely would’ve called the cops.”
Mr. Gouda states, “I still revisit the film every now and then. I filmed it over a year ago and it still stays with me. Probably because I feel it communicated really clearly what I was feeling at the time. Scared, alone, going slightly crazy and really desperately looking for a cause to be optimistic. I really like what it leaves the audience with, it stares right into the void and still comes away an optimist and that’s what I’m most proud of. During the making of the film, it was a challenge just to keep going on a daily basis. It seemed like the world was falling apart all around me and there was an urge to just hide under the bed. There are moments where you just need to find anything that pushes you along.” There’s a profound lesson in that.
writer – Winston King