March 20, 2019

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  • The Reel Estate: Meet Andrei Zvyagintsev

    BY JOSEPH FAHIM Cairo: He’s been called the new Tarkovsky, the chronicler of modern-day Russia, the most gifted Russian filmmaker to arrive in a generation. Ever since his astounding debut “The Return” in 2003, Venice Film Fest’s Golden Lion winner Andrei Zvyagintsev has taken the art-film world by storm with his mystical tales of faith, morality and displacement. His new film, “Elena,” which won the Un Certain Regard – Special Jury Prize last year at the Cannes Film Fest, is distinctly dissimilar to his past works: An urban drama set in Moscow about a middle-aged woman making life-changing decisions in…

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    A noisy discourse on sexual harassment

    BY MARIE-JEANNE BERGER Cairo: Women have been groped this year. They have been grabbed. They have been subjected to the bizarre and menacingly-named “virginity tests.” The soldiers have gone free. Women have been attacked and mobbed by groups opposing their protests in waves; they have run. Women have written about injustice, they have been criticized for their views; hands were broken. They have been stripped and stepped on and damned for it. Their assailants — those meant to serve and protect the people — failed at both and went unpunished. Women have been vilified simply for being there — wherever…

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    In the US with Bassem Youssef

      BY H. A. HELLYER “We’re going to have some great material,” said Bassem Youssef, Egyptian political satirist after hearing the results of the first round of the 2012 presidential election. I knew June was going to be a rather dull time in Egypt. In the same way I knew that taking a research sabbatical for a few months in December 2010 in Cairo was the quietest way to spend the winter. So, I opted to go to the US for a month to advise on a new television show with a little known political satirist named Bassem Youssef. Well, as…

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    Emotional catharsis in El-Maslaha

    BY MARIE-JEANNE BERGER Cairo: If it bleeds, it leads. We fallible human creatures gloat over destruction, delight in the horrible and the macabre, and choose to see terrible movies full of unnecessary violence to amuse ourselves. But it’s not as if violence is something rare: some sort of exceptional knowledge detached from our lived experience, isolated, occasional and infrequent. Violence is a frequent, necessary facet of experience. And don’t we get enough of it already? Susan Sontag used the opening phrase to censure society’s obsession with violence and trauma in news media and popular entertainment. Mulvey called it scopophilia: the…

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    Supermarket for the masses

    BY MARIAM HAMDY Cairo: It seems that there is a recurrent problem in our culture of being unable to reach people efficiently, except on some superficial level. When people say they’re ‘in tune’ with a particular segment of society other than their own, it almost always means that they deal with a minute fraction of what they assume is a sample of it. Each social class, sub-culture, or at best, building (let alone neighborhood) is so self-involved that it ends up speaking, critiquing and analyzing itself. Not only does this reinforce stereotypical gaps between one part of society and the…

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    Prometheus takes on God

    BY FIRAS AL-ATRAQCHI Cairo: In 1966, Federation Starfleet Captian James T. Kirk promised that the Enterprise’s mission would go where no man has gone before. In “Star Trek: The Final Frontier” (1989), Kirk and his crew almost fulfill that promise, but their audience with God, the Creator, turns sour when they discover the deity is not what he seems. In “Prometheus,” this year’s much anticipated summer sci-fi blockbuster, iconic filmmaker Ridley Scott may have discovered man’s ultimate destination in an alien Kingdom of Heaven. Or is it Hell? “Prometheus” kicks off with beautiful vistas of what appears to be a…

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    The Reel Estate: Putin’s Russia

    BY JOSEPH FAHIM Cairo: In one of the most telling moments of Cyril Tuschi’s controversial, multi-layered documentary “Khodorkovsky,” the imprisoned Russian oil tycoon confesses that he and his business partners “broke ethical standards from today’s points of view. That is true. And we did shape some moral standards to suit ourselves. But our moral standards matched those of the society we lived in.” In more ways than one, the statement of Khodorkovsky, widely known as the Russian Nelson Mandela, encapsulates the present moral condition of the former Soviet Union, a Russia that bears no resemblance to the ethically-demarcated nation of…

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    The filtered ‘Noise of Cairo’

    BY CHITRA KALYANI Cairo: A protester waves a flag from a pole as a helicopter flies overhead. The image is etched in our minds, not simply from the revolution but from a time long ago: David aiming his slingshot at Goliath, man rising against machine, commoner raising a fist at the system. The flag-waving protester also raises the curtain to German filmmaker Heiko Lange’s documentary “The Noise of Cairo – A Documentary about Cairo, Art, and the Revolution.” Enter into the salon with singer Shaimaa Shaalan who explains that previously, due to the education and culture in Egypt, “we were…

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    Pondering: ‘If I were president…’

    BY MAURICE CHAMMAH Cairo: Several weeks ago, an artist named Amado Alfadni began to post stickers and posters around downtown Cairo. His design was simple, with an abstract border framing a short sentence and several dotted lines. The sentence, split into two versions to address both men and women, reads in calligraphy: “If I were president…” The dotted lines solicit whoever passes by to fill in their own answer. Alfadni had picked the stark design over others with eagles and Egyptian flags, believing that they would distract people from writing on them. He started placing them around downtown Cairo, where…

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    A cultural event for all seasons

    BY MARIAM HAMDY Cairo: Summer is usually the slowest season for art. Most distinguished galleries showcase compilations from their past year’s exhibits, with the exception of a few shows here and there. These are an excellent introduction to modern Egypt for foreigners in town for the summer, but for local art followers, summer represents a long, dry season. Luckily, every year an exhibition or event comes out of nowhere to shake up the scene. Kick-starting this year’s summer season was Future Shorts Egypt, a small, yet growing endeavor by four young Egyptians who love film and art. Salma El-Shaffei, Sara…

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