QUATRE FEMMES D’EGYPTE

How do we get along with each other when our views col­lide? This is a modern, urban ques­tion which is vital and uni­ver­sal. Four Egypt­ian women dare to answer this ques­tion. Their con­fronta­tion rede­fines the notion of tol­er­ance. The four girl­friends have one common goal: human dig­ni­ty. They are full of love for their coun­try. They still remem­ber the regency of King Faruk and they had hoped for fun­da­men­tal changes after Nasser’s rev­o­lu­tion. All of them have been fight­ing for social jus­tice since then, and yet, their iden­ti­ties have devel­oped accord­ing to the rhythm of his­to­ry. Each one of them has chosen a dif­fer­ent path. Their Islam­ic faith, Chris­t­ian belief, or Athe­ist con­vic­tion are like antipodes, their dif­fer­ent notions of a state col­lide: one wants the seper­a­tion of reli­gion and state, others fight for a social­ist or an Islam­ic coun­try.

Nev­er­the­less, the four women refuse to con­demn each other or allow dis­dain to enter into their rela­tion­ships. They listen to each other’s dif­fer­ent opin­ions and they are able to con­tra­dict each other. It doesn’t impair their friend­ship. They accept each other com­plete­ly, allow quar­rels, check each other , cal­cu­late and judge with­out with­draw­ing them­selves. They dare to judge each other and to tell each other what they think. They give each other the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain them­selves and take revenge. And they laugh about it.

The Pro­tag­o­nists
Amina Rachid is a pro­fes­sor of com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cairo. A left­ist mil­i­tant and a non-prac­tis­ing moslem since her youth, she worked for a decade at the nation­al research centre in Paris (CNRS) and returned to Egypt at the end of the 70s. She is editor-in-chief for ‘Nour’, a lit­er­ary jour­nal devot­ed to the work of Arab women.

Safy­naz Kazem left Egypt in 1961 to study in the United States of Amer­i­ca and stayed for 5 years. A devot­ed Moslem who wears the veil and advo­cates the strict appli­ca­tion of Sharia (Islam­ic law). She works as a writer, the­atre critic and jour­nal­ist. Recent­ly, she pub­lished an essay on the roots of her writ­ing.

Sha­hen­da Maklad is a leader of the agrar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion and the strug­gle for peas­ants’ rights fol­low­ing the assas­si­na­tion of her hus­band, whom she suc­ceed­ed. A prac­tis­ing Muslim, she has run for elec­tion three times.

Wedad Mitry is a retired teacher, trade-union­ist and cam­paigns for the rights of women. She was par­tic­u­lar­ly active in the fight for the right of women to vote. She is a prac­tis­ing Copt.

The City of the Dead

In the vast El Arafa ceme­tery in Cairo, a city has arisen among the tombs and mau­soleums. This “city of the dead” has a living pop­u­la­tion of one mil­lion. There are many funer­als each day, while life goes on all around: a young shep­herd drives his cattle through the small streets, a market woman tries to sell plas­tic laun­dry bas­kets, and chil­dren play among the tomb­stones, flying their kites. No respect for the dead, then. There is, how­ev­er, an all per­va­sive sense of real­ism: in this necrop­o­lis, the living and the dead are bound togeth­er into a pact of peace. Direct­ed by Sérgio Tré­faut, THE CITY OF THE DEAD presents us with var­i­ous aspects of this strange enclave. We see the serene and beau­ti­ful sand coloured graves as well as the tur­moil of a place where a pre­dom­i­nant­ly poor pop­u­la­tion strug­gles to sur­vive.

Terror und Kebab

Ter­ror­ism and the Kebab is a farce denounc­ing the absur­di­ty of bureau­cra­cy in modern Egypt. Adel Imam, Egypt‘s lead­ing comic actor, is a father who wants to move his son to a school closer to home. He goes to El Muga­maa, the centre of Cairo‘s mono­lith­ic bureau­cra­cy, to pick up the required doc­u­ments. Frus­trat­ed by the lack of response, he ends up attack­ing a fun­da­men­tal­ist offi­cial and, when armed police respond to the sit­u­a­tion, a machine gun acci­den­tal­ly finds its way into Imam‘s hands. As a ter­ror­ist, his demands to the Min­is­ter of Inter­nal Affairs are simple: Shish Kebab made of high­class lamb. After having a hearty meal with his hostages, how­ev­er, his demands become more polit­i­cal. The film was shot at “Mugam­maa“, the biggest admin­is­tra­tion build­ing of the African con­ti­nent, just at the edge of the leg­endary Tahrir, the place of the recent protests in Cairo.

Microphone

Upon return­ing to his native Alexan­dria after trav­el­ing abroad in the United States for sev­er­al years, Khaled dis­cov­ers that time has altered and sev­ered many of his prior rela­tion­ships, namely between him and his former flame, Hadeer. Feel­ing alone and reject­ed, Khaled wan­ders the city and quick­ly stum­bles into a new world: the under­ground arts scene. As he becomes increas­ing­ly enchant­ed with this coun­ter­cul­ture move­ment, Khaled cross­es paths with street hip-hop­pers, rooftop rock­ers, graf­fi­ti artists and doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers. Cap­ti­vat­ed by this diverse inter­sec­tion of cre­ativ­i­ty, he attempts to pull togeth­er his lim­it­ed resources in the hopes of sup­port­ing the onslaught of fresh talent. It is not long before his pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al life becomes com­plete­ly immersed in music, film and art, a move­ment all the more extra­or­di­nary for it having not emerged from Cairo, Egypt’s bustling cap­i­tal city. MICROPHONE is a rich depic­tion of some of the most excep­tion­al non­pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians the city has to offer.

Scent of revolution

Four people recount­ing their expe­ri­ences in Egypt: The owner of the largest col­lec­tion of photo neg­a­tives in the coun­try, a Coptic polit­i­cal activist, an elder­ly social­ist writer, and a younger cyber­space design­er. The first two have been living in Luxor for decades. They talk about how cor­rup­tion has destroyed the city little by little, leav­ing it a domi­cile with no space for its actual people. The other two live in Cairo – but the writer is a man living in a dif­fer­ent time, and the design­er a woman living in anoth­er world. Back in the 1980s, he wrote about his dis­en­chant­ment with the 1952 rev­o­lu­tion, com­par­ing past and present. She has devel­oped a space of vir­tu­al pos­si­bil­i­ty in Second Life, where she invites a Salafist to meet her as an avatar at Tahrir Square. The scent of rev­o­lu­tion is bewitch­ing and can be found all over the place, it is intan­gi­ble and ephemer­al. A fresh scent can remind you of some­thing from the past. A rev­o­lu­tion is usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a place and a year, yet it is pre­cise­ly this sort of restric­tion that usu­al­ly brings about it its fail­ure. ARIJ gen­er­ates space and time in all direc­tions, thus giving the rev­o­lu­tion room to breathe.

The Virgin, the Copts and Me

Namir’s mother is a Coptic Chris­t­ian. She is con­vinced that she can see an appari­tion of the Virgin Mary on a video tape orig­i­nat­ing from her home in Egypt. Her son, who has been raised in a sec­u­lar envi­ron­ment in France, decides to make a film about the phe­nom­e­non and trav­els to Egypt to visit his rel­a­tives. Hoping to under­stand the con­nec­tion between appear­ances of the Virgin to the Copt minor­i­ty and recent events in Egypt­ian his­to­ry he soon dis­cov­ers plenty of obsta­cles. First­ly there are his par­ents who inter­fere in the film and crit­i­cise his ideas; then there’s his French pro­duc­er who wants to change the film every few weeks and final­ly, the inhab­i­tants of his family’s Coptic vil­lage. Des­per­ate, Namir decides to create his own ver­sion of the Virgin Mary’s appear­ance. To realise his plan he will need to enlist the aid of the vil­lagers and his mother; the latter soon joins him in Egypt and proves to be remark­ably capa­ble.

A humor­ous fic­tion­al doc­u­men­tary and family-drama-cum-cul­ture-clash about reli­gion in the dias­po­ra, the art of cinema and the bound­less cre­ativ­i­ty of the film­mak­ers. Making good use of his mother as the film’s won­der­ful main pro­tag­o­nist, this direc­to­r­i­al debut charm­ing­ly and wit­ti­ly expos­es the manip­u­la­tive aspects of doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ing.

Café regular, Cairo

A young Muslim couple sits in a café, talk­ing about the future of their rela­tion­ship for the first time and how pre­mar­i­tal sex could change it. The young woman wants to know how her boyfriend’s opin­ion of her would change if she agreed to lose her vir­gin­i­ty to him.

The film address­es a hot polit­i­cal topic: the free­dom to decide one’s own life. It is the por­trait of a woman deter­mined to take con­trol over her pri­vate life,” said the jury after award­ing the film the FIPRESCI prize in the Ober­hausen Short Film Fes­ti­val.