In The Burdened (Al Murhaqoon), Amr Gamal presents a family’s painful confrontation with poverty and their desire to have an abortion in a country in which it is only legal to protect the life of the pregnant woman.
Ahmed (Khaled Hamdan) and Isra’a (Abeer Mohammed) live in a small apartment with their three children. Ahmed has been laid off from his job with Aden-TV. Along with many others, he is unable to collect the back pay the company owes him. He works a second job, using a minibus as a taxi. He has to deal with military checkpoints, and, one day, a military truck backs into him and drives away without looking back. He has no choice but to pay for the repairs himself. Isra’a is reduced to selling her jewelry to support her children and pay their rising school fees. Their landlord raises their rent, and they are forced to move into even smaller accommodations.
Then Isra’a becomes pregnant. They can’t afford a fourth child, so they decide to have an abortion. This is not easy in Yemen, where abortion is illegal. It is also considered taboo by orthodox Islam. Isra’a believes in an interpretation of Islam that allows abortions up to 120 days after conception, at which point the fetus acquires a soul. So, in addition to the moral and financial challenges, the couple is facing a time limit. They appeal to Isra’a’s friend, Muna (Samah Alamrani), who is a doctor, to help her end her pregnancy. Muna is torn between two worlds. On the one hand, she is a successful physician who owns and drives her own car. On the other hand, whenever a man enters her office, she dons a hijab. Isra’a and Ahmed are forced to figure out a way to get a doctor’s signature on a document stating that Isra’a’s life is in danger.
Gamal based The Burdened on the story of a young, middle-income couple who are friends of his. He worked with them for three years developing the script in such a way that it was realistic, yet changed enough that no one would recognize them.
Shooting the movie was also a challenge. Because of electricity outages and problems obtaining fuel to run a generator, Gamal often could not film for days at a time. In addition to growing demonstrations in the streets, fighting broke out and Gamal and his crew had to spend five days hiding in a hotel until warfare calmed down. He also had to deal with one actor after another being laid low by Covid. Consequently, the shooting took seventy days.
Although Gamal did use some professional actors, he had to make do with non-professionals as well. For example, a nurse is played by his makeup artist, and Isra’a’s brother-in-law is played by the film’s location manager.
One character in the film is the city of Aden itself, just as it was in Gamil’s first film, 10 Days Before the Wedding.