Sherif Arafa & Adel Imam – Irhab wal Kabab AKA Terrorism and Barbecue (1993)

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Egyptian government employee Ahmed Fateh El-Bab goes to the Education Administration Department at the Tahrir Complex in Cairo to transfer his children to another school. He’s treated with insolence and negligence by the clerks. He rebels and loses his temper with one of the clerks. The clerk calls security, Ahmed clashes with them and a bullet is fired by mistake. The security guard runs away and Ahmed takes possession of the rifle. A rumor spreads that terrorists have taken over the complex. Ahmed is then joined by four others including Hind, a woman arrested for soliciting. The “terrorists” are asked for their demands, Ahmed demands a large quantity of barbecued kebabs, and the plot unfolds… Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Bab el hadid AKA Cairo Station (1958)

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Quote:

Universally panned by Egypt’s cinema audiences when it was first released in 1958, Youssef Chahine’s “Cairo Station” disappeared from view for two decades until it was rediscovered and hailed as a masterpiece. Watching the film now, almost half a century after its first screening, it’s easy to see why it upset so many people “Cairo Station” is a pressure cooker of lust, jealousy, and psychosis.

Crippled Kenaoui (Chahine), nicknamed “Limpy” by his cruel co-workers, sells newspapers in Cairo’s central station. Living out on the tracks, earning barely enough to keep the makeshift roof over his head, he spends his days fantasising about the voluptuous Hanuma (Rostom), a lemonade seller engaged to macho porter Abou Serib (Chawqi). Kenaoui’s convinced she’ll eventually fall in love with him if he keeps pursuing her. But with a murderer on the loose in Cairo, things may yet take an unexpected turn. Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Al-Massir aka Destiny (1997)

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Ideas are imperishable, such is the premise of this powerful, upbeat allegory from one of Egypt’s most esteemed directors, Youssef Chahine. Ostensibly the true tale of revolutionary Muslim philosopher Averroes who lived in 12th-century Spain when Arabs ruled Anadulsia, it parallels the story of Chahine’s own experiences with Islamic fundamentalists when he released his 1994 film L’Emigre because it dared depict a sacred Muslim prophet. During that time, fundamentalists were not content to merely have the film b
anned, they also threatened Chahine’s life. Despite their destructive efforts, the fundamentalists ultimately failed and L’Emigre became one of Egypt’s most successful films. Averroes was a follower of Aristotelian thought, an innovative lawyer and an important scientist (he discovered the purpose of the retina) who lived during the rule of the great liberal Caliph Al Mansour. At the time, the Caliph’s rivals were part of Magdi Idris, a fundamentalist sect, who sought to destroy his power by cloaking their own political agendas in religious dogma and spreading it liberally amongst the easily influenced peasantry. Continue reading

Nagy Shaker & Paolo Isaja – Summer 70 (1970-1971)

from MOMA:
Nagy Shaker was studying stage design in Rome and Paolo Isaja ran a ciné-club that specialized in experimental cinema when they met at the Rome Film School. They decided to collaborate on their respective film projects, and with the help of friends, they launched into production, casting an American nurse of Italian descent who was in Rome at the time. The film, a meditation on freedom at the turn of the 1970s, utilizes the full vocabulary of experimental cinema to evoke youthful experimentation and energetic abandon. The two alternated between directing, filming, and recording sound. Jamil Suleiman authored the musical score and Renzo Rossellini financed the print. Continue reading

Chadi Abdel Salam – al-Mummia aka The Night of Counting the Years (1969)

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Review from Time Out London:
An impressive directorial debut by ex-art director Shadi Abdelsalam, The Night of Counting the Years is an examination of cultural imperialism in reverse: instead of selling Coca-Cola to Egypt, Western merchants are stealing rarities from Egyptian tombs. At first posed in moral terms – should the new chief of an Egyptian tribe allow his people to earn money by selling the antiquities from ‘officially’ undiscovered tombs, or stop the trade at the cost of stopping the flow of money to his poverty-stricken people – the film develops into a study of the importance of defending the past from would-be cultural exploiters. Slow-moving but absorbing, and quite beautifully shot. Continue reading

Hassan Khan – Blind Ambition (2012)

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Synopsis: Blind Ambition is a nine-part video shot throughout one day in the streets of Cairo. It features nine social situations that take place in public spaces. Shot with two mobile phones, Blind Ambition gives the impression of using real-time, factual footage material. Deprived of ambient sound, and with dubbed in voices, it is a video about material culture during the Egyptian revolution. Continue reading