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No character is better etched in Ibrahim El Batout’s Hawi than the city of Alexandria; competing with the metropolis are seven or eight of its residents—a recently released political prisoner, a belly dancer with brains, a man and his horse—who we seem to catch mid-narrative, and whose connections to each other become clearer, but not exactly clear, over time. El Batout is driven by empathy: He wants to show what life is like for these people, in this place, at this time. He errs by doing so via the tired hyperlink formula, which has become a cliche in Hollywood but has worked in recent years for talented filmmakers like Germany’s Fatih Akin. Unfortunately, El Batout doesn’t have the chops to pull it off, and untangles a tangle of narratives only to come away with nothing but loose strings.

At 4:30 p.m. at Regal Cinemas Gallery Place; also on Thursday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. at E Street Cinema.