July 25, 2017

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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…

    Loach’s ‘Angels’ will leave you in high spirits

    Ken Loach's "The Angels' Share" won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2012.

    BY WAFAA WALI On the opening night of the 5th Panorama of European Film, the audience walked out of Ken Loach’s “The Angels’ Share” with a surprised grin on their faces. Loach’s lighthearted social-realism, infused with a touch of fantasy, begins with a young Robbie (Paul Brannigan) barely escaping a prison sentence, saved by the expected arrival of his newborn. During his 300 hours of community service his supervisor, Harry (John Henshow), becomes his patron. When Robbie’s girlfriend Leoni (Siobhan Reilly) is about to give birth, Harry goes with him to the hospital where he witnesses Leoni’s father and uncle…

    Reel Estate: Arabs in Sight & Sound poll

    Scene from Youssef Chahine's classic "Cairo Station" shows Chahine and Hend Rostom.

    BY JOSEPH FAHIM The Sight & Sound greatest movies of all time poll, which was published earlier this month, is unparalleled in its ability to seize the attention of movie critics the world over. Conducted every 10 years, the survey is the most prestigious, most highly regarded in the world, acquiring its importance from the fact that only film professionals (critics, writers, academics and directors) are eligible to vote. This year, the venerable British Film Institute publication invited 846 film critics, writers and academics and 358 directors, up from 145 critics and 108 film directors who voted for the last…

    Rediscovering the soul of Italy

    “Italy: Love It or Leave It” documents the journey of filmmakers Gustov Hofer and Luca Ragazzi.

    BY ANGELA BOSKOVITCH With the never-ending Euro-crisis slashing state budgets, especially in research and education, Italians are again turning to life abroad as the answer. Despite the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in November last year, the country is ruled by an old political class more interested in serving their own interests than those of the public. Shot in 2011, the film “Italy: Love It or Leave It” is as current as ever, documenting the journey of filmmakers Gustov Hofer and Luca Ragazzi as they travel their country from North to South. The film — which had its Egyptian…

    Lincoln, Vampire Hunter misses the mark

    Benjamin Walker and Erin Wasson in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

    BY FIRAS AL-ATRAQCHI It shouldn’t have been very hard to promote “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The title, after all, is perhaps the film’s strongest marketing tool. Attuned to the social manifestations gripping America today, the film (and its title) plays to both the need for strong leadership qualities in a president and contemporary pop culture’s baffling obsession with the vampire genre. What could be more titillating than having America’s iconic President Abraham Lincoln, the visionary emancipator of slaves and the great unifier of a nation nearly torn apart in 1861, taking to arms himself and doing battles with the ghouls…

    Reel Estate: Probing Coptic faith

    Namir Abdel Messeeh in a scene from "The Copts, the Virgin and Me"

    BY JOSEPH FAHIM Cairo: When I was a kid, I caught a bad fever that almost ended my life. The doctors didn’t think I’d survive. My mother, the devout Christian she’s always been, prayed and prayed. She promised God that if He saves me, she’d make me dedicate my life to Him. I miraculously recovered, but I never became the “servant of God” my mother so wished me to be. I failed to become an altar boy, always felt alienated at Sunday school and never belonged to any church group. I discovered Sartre and Plato at 12, lost faith for…

    The Reel Estate: Meet Andrei Zvyagintsev

    Russian filmmaker 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…

    Emotional catharsis in El-Maslaha

    Ahmed Ezz and Ahmed El Sakka in a scene from Sandra Nashaat’s “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…

    The Reel Estate: Putin’s Russia

    Nadezhda Markina and Andrey Smirnov in a scene from Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “Elena.”

    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…

    A cultural event for all seasons

    "Bear" by Australian filmmaker Nash Edgerton.

    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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