April 23, 2014

Love in the Time of Cartagena

José Antonio Iglesias before his recovery in Infierno O Paraiso (Heaven or Hell) (Photo courtesy Joaquin Sarmiento/FNPI)

BY CHITRA KALYANI Colombia - Somewhere in the streets of Cartagena in Colombia, you will encounter a performer at a pavement appearing to float in mid-air. You look at him in astonishment, and it takes you many minutes to figure out his trick. The Carribean city is setting up another kind of magic at the film festival, where you are listening to the director who surprised himself by making it big with Amores Perros. “Sometimes bad films make me happy. I am not ashamed of that.” If Alejandro Iñárritu can say that, surely you can too. “Ciudad Delirio” makes me happy. The…

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The opposite of hope pervades 2 B Continued fest

Scene from “Triangles are My Favorite Shapes”  written and directed by Seif Abdel Salaam. (Photo courtesy Mostafa Abdel Aty)

BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo – In it’s fifth edition the plays and dance pieces presented at the 2 Be Continued Theatre and Contemporary Dance laboratory festival at Falaky Theatre last week appeared to be unrelated, but in fact they all shared a common thread of defeat, suffering, control, and futility. The evening starts with “A Room Filled with Smoke” choreographed by Mounir Said. This two-person dance piece is beautifully executed in a very well-designed set. Grey colors, scattered clothes, and unfinished wall paint create an ominous impression that is deepened by the eerie music performed live on stage. This murky…

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Negm: Powerfully present, even in his absence

Eskenderella electrified the audience who chimed in and closed with "down with military rule". (Photo courtesy Hassan Amin)

CAIRO BY DALIA BASIOUNY Devotees of Egyptian poet and songwriter Ahmed Fouad Negm held a memorial for him at the Cairo Opera House last week, which morphed into an emotional affirmation by the audience that the “revolution continues”. Negm’s poems and Sheikh Imam’s music have been the voice of rebellion in Egypt for decades and appropriately became a true expression of the Jan. 25 revolution. The songs they wrote more than 30 years ago, were so befitting for contemporary Egypt, reflecting the current revolutionary situation so much so that activists used them as chants in demonstrations. People called Negm “the…

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Follow your heart at The Workshops

The Workshops takes skills development to a whole new level, offering tailored trainings to match your needs. (Photo courtesy of The Workshops)

BY LEYLA DOSS Cairo – “Pursue your Passion,” reads a banner in bright rainbow colours as it welcomes guests into a small garden filled with luscious trees and cushioned wooden chairs. The Workshop, a cultural center established last October in Cairo’s Maadi district, offers workshops and practical training to broaden your horizons. “As a writer, I have always loved arts and culture, but constantly felt that there is an absence of high quality skills in Egypt,” says Rasha Abo El-Soud, one of the founders. “Many are taught to pursue financial stability over their interests.” Abo El-Soud believes that The Workshops…

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‘Les Miserables’ links revolutionary France, Egypt

"Master of the House" Monsieur Thernardier (Sheirf Rizkallah), Madame Thernardier (Rita Achkar) and Eponine (Nesma Mahgoub) in a scene from "Les Miserables" in Arabic staged at AUC last week. (Photo courtesy Amira Gabr)

BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo – Few performances can move their audience emotionally, while engaging them artistically and intellectually. But some very lucky Cairenes had the opportunity this week, watching highlights from the renowned musical “Les Miserable” at The American University in Cairo (AUC). The remarkable performance was presented in Arabic for the first time late last week at the Malak Gabr theater. The successful Broadway musical “Les Miserable” by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil is based on Victor Hugo’s powerful novel about poverty, injustice and the struggle against oppression, set during the 1932 student revolt against the French monarchy. The…

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‘Alice’ but no wonderland

Scene from "Alice" by  Sawsan Bou Khaled and Hussein Baydoun from Lebanon. (Photo by Mohamed Fathallh)

BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo – In its second edition, the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) which closed on April 28, presented a mixed fare of theater performances with a focus on works never seen in Egypt before. The world premiere of Lebanese performance “Alice”, created by Sawsan Bou Khaled in collaboration with Hussein Baydoun, is a case in point. This one-woman show was directed, authored and performed by Bou Khaled, a theater veteran who made her directorial debut in 2006. The exceptionally talented Hussein Baydoun, is an architect by training, but is known in the Arab world and beyond as…

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Theater techies find the ‘Alternative Solution’

"Disturbance" modern dance performance by Sherine Hegazy. The show was part of the Alternative Solutions arts fest last month. (Photo courtesy Osama Dawoud.)

BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo Stunned by news that Rawabet Theater, the only affordable independent performance space in downtown Cairo was shut down, two theatre technicians decided to take matters into their own hands. As technicians Saber El Sayed and Mido Sadeq knew how to turn empty, unequipped spaces into full-fledged performance venues. Rawabet’s abrupt closure in February for lack of funding triggered the ingenious idea to transform The Factory, a space run by the TownHouse Gallery, and debut an arts festival they dubbed “Alternative Solution”. Click here to open the gallery. Converting this huge empty white-walled hall into an equipped…

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Khan’s ‘Ambition’ captures crisis of connection

Scene from "Blind Ambition", directed by Hassan Khan. (Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel6)

BY WAFAA WALI Cairo Imagine the oddity of watching on screen Cairo’s visually noisy streets without the actual noise. The phrase “eerie vacuum” comes to mind, but that’s precisely what director Hassan Khan has done in his latest offering “Blind Ambition”. Khan’s work, which was commissioned for the prestigious dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, premiered in Cairo Sunday as part of the downtown D-Caf festival. The 46-minute film split into nine different episodes taking place around Cairo shows diverse groups of people engaged in conversation which do not all revolve around a specific issue. With no clear aim and not reaching…

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Zero Dark Dirty

Jessica Chastain in a scene from "Zero Dark Thirty".

BY ALI HAZZAH “When you lie to me, I hurt you.” This catch phrase, spoken in an ominously matter-of-fact tone by Dan (Jason Clarke), a veteran CIA agent, is heard early on in Kathryn Bigelow’s latest, “Zero Dark Thirty”. From an Arab or Muslim perspective, this highly controversial film is among the most grotesque, bigoted, history-rewriting Hollywood excreta to darken the silver screen since Otto Preminger’s Exodus. It is difficult, in fact, to assess what is most offensively repellent about this venal, tunnel-visioned film. Certainly Bigelow’s context-free historical interpretation of the killing of Osama bin Laden is as unconvincing as…

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Shaymaa Kamel bares her soul in “Roh”

"Freedom" (2009) by Shaymaa Kamel.

BY YASMINE ALLAM Last February Shaymaa Kamel showed a series of large canvases populated by rows of fictional animals dressed in suits. To her, these creatures symbolized the tyranny of successive political leaderships in Egypt, out of touch with their own humanity and their people. The undisguised political nature of this message was a departure from Kamel’s previous work, which had been dominated by far more private and visceral portrayals of her own ongoing quest for identity and introspection. For the first time, Kamel’s current solo exhibition “Roh” (Soul) at Tache Art Gallery, brings under one roof, paintings shown in…

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