This is the best movie review I have read in the English-language Egyptian press in years — Egyptian horror movies: Laser goats and chicken blood | Al-Masry Al-Youm:
“Anyab” ("Fangs") makes the most of the “horror-as-social-commentary” ideology, taking it to a literal sense when the film’s narrator breaks the fourth wall to inform the audience that the “vampires” represent the more unscrupulous individuals in our society, those who greedily feed off of the weak for a quick reward. The film then turns into a 30-minute montage of public service announcements, where the lead couple, in a series of separate vignettes, falls prey to a doctor, plumber, cab driver, butcher, private tutor and realtor, all played by the main vampire, ending every scene by turning to the camera and smiling to reveal his fangs.
Best of all, the vampire is played by Ahmad Adawiya. I have to get hold of this.
Very much looking forward to reading more of Ali Abdel Mohsen's funny and informative reviews.
As the al-Saud dynasty engages over a mega-production over the death of Prince Sultan — one of the most profligate of the gerontocracy that rules Saudi Arabia — it might be good to remember that making films like the ones, above, on poverty in the kingdom, get you arrested. 22% of Saudis are defined as poor, according to the film, despite the vast oil wealth controlled by the al-Sauds.
At Ferrara's international journalism festival (put on by the excellent Italian paper Internazionale) I saw the film Tahrir this afternoon. I was afraid it might be too familiar, or sentimental, or iconographic, but it was lovely. Italian film-maker Stefano Savona spent days in Tahrir Square and got some amazing footage. Here for example is a clip of the protesters fighting to defend the square from pro-Mubarak thugs:
And here is a completely different side of Tahrir: the funny, moving, poeting chants that inspired protesters came up with on the spot:
What's just as interesting are the long conversations between the young Egyptias the film-maker followed around the square, discussing (with remarkably clarity and insight) all the questions and difficulties of the coming transitional period. It was quite emotional for me to watch this film, at this moment, when the revolution's promises are so far from realized and when the aims and sacrifices of those involved in it have been (despite official lip service paid to the "glorious revolution") distorted and disparaged by the army, the security services, former regime elements and a disturbing number of media outlets. It's a good reminder of all the outrage, courage, and optimism on display during those 18 days, and of their continued potential. The film is playing in New York on October 2 and 4. And I really hope it will be showing in Egypt soon.
I just reviewed young Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla's new film, Microphone, over at the National (I also wrote on the blog about Abadallah's first feature, Heliopolis, last year). The film is an exploration of youth culture and underground music in Alexandria--and more generally, of the difficulties that young people in Egypt have finding a voice--and very enjoyable. It will be playing in the upcoming Cairo and Dubai film festivals.
Here's a bit of the review:
Microphone started out as a documentary about Aya, an 18-year-old female graffiti artist in Alexandria, whose work had come to Abdalla's attention.
Through Aya, he discovered the city's lively collection of bands, in particular its burgeoning hip-hop scene, and decided to make a documentary about youth culture in Egypt's second city, featuring musicians, filmmakers, artists and skateboarders. Because documentary films are rarely shown in Egyptian theatres, Abdalla gave a fictional framework to his footage of musicians and kids hanging out.
Thus, the character of Khaled - played by the well-loved actor Khaled Abol-Naga, who is also a producer of the film - returns to Alexandria after a seven-year absence, only to find that the woman he has been longing to see again is about to leave town.
While he mopes over his bad timing, Abol-Naga comes into contact with the film's young characters, who are busy rehearsing, falling in and out of love, hanging out and trying to land gigs.
Microphone is best appreciated as a documentary about music and youth culture in contemporary Egypt, bolstered by a slim fictional frame. In fact, Abdalla says, "we kept trying to be true to the first idea: to give artists the microphone to speak their minds." The artists and kids play themselves, and their storylines are often inspired by their own lives.
(For the rest, see here).
Last night, Ursula and I went to see Garbage Dreams, Mai Iskander's documentary about Cairo's trash collectors (and recyclers), the Zabbaleen. I had wanted to see this movie for months, but it was impossible to obtain on DVD, there were no screenings in Cairo and no one had put it up online — even though it won over 22 awards and, judging from the overflow crowd at Darb 1718, the great cultural center in Old Cairo where it was being shown outdoors in stifling weather, there is much demand for it.
Garbage Dreams follows the lives of a few boys from Mokattam, the hill East of Cairo near which many of Cairo's 60,000 Zabbaleen live and work handling the city's prodigious garbage output. The story of the Zabbaleen is a familiar one, so I'll just briefly repeat here for those who won't know it: they are a mostly Coptic Christian community of dispossessed peasants from Upper Egypt who settled in Cairo in the late nineteenth century and, as a community, became the trash collectors for about 60% of the city. Originally, contracts for trash collection were actually controlled by Bedouins who subcontracted the work to the Zabbaleen. In recent years, not only have they continued to collect trash, but they have also made additional cash from recycling what they collect, impressively reusing about 80% of the trash after sorting it. They live in filthy conditions, amidst their work, but with dignity and, until recently, regular income.
In recent years, the government began contracting foreign companies to use modern trash collection methods. These take Cairo's garbage to landfills and recycle much less of it — only 20% according to the film. This has eaten into the income of the Zabbaleen and is threatening their community, even if some of the workers for the company have been recruited from it. This is an interesting story, but unfortunately Iskander does not tackle it with sufficient diligence: we are given plenty of the Zabbaleen's side of things, but no explanation from the government or the companies about their strategy (which, I'm fairly sure, would have been even more incriminating — the ridiculousness of needing foreign expertise for trash collection is pretty self-evident.)
But perhaps this doesn't matter that much. The heart of the story are the lives of Adham, Nabil and Osama in the context of this threat to the community. They give poignant testimony about their awareness that they are at the bottom of the social ladder, there desire for both mundane and grandiose improvements to their lives, their attachment to their community and pride in its essential work. There are some pretty hilarious scenes, too, such as when the boys are taken to Wales in a NGO-funded trip to look at recycling methods in Europe. In their almost cruel exposure to a clean, green and prosperous Wales (hardly the reputation the country has, say, in London) they see ideas to take back home, but also great waste — there's a great scene in which Nabil lectures the operators of recycling center that they need to be more thorough about separation — essentially by doing the type of manual sorting done in Cairo that is simply impossible under European labor and safety regulations. "Here they have technology, but they don't have precision," he finally scoffs.
The greatest laugh of all for the Cairene audience came when one boy turns to the other at a road crossing, and says with wonder: "Did you see that car? It stopped to let people cross!" That is one other meditation on why Cairo came to be such a badly run city, saved from the total chaos by the hard work and good humor of its underclass.
- Critical writer jailed in Tunisia - On Monday, police in Sfax, Tunisia's second largest city, detained Slim Boukhdhir, a well-known blogger and contributor to the London-based Al-Quds Al Arabi.
- 'Aqoul: Hirsi Ali: Ideological Chameleon - Holy CRAP! Hirsi Ali's rightward shift
- tabsir.net Â» Al Qaeda?s generational split - Yemeni tactics for splitting jihadist groups
- Talking Points | National Security Network - Website of reality-based security types
- Le Monde.fr : Une vidÃ©o-amateur contredit la version de la police sur l'accident de Villiers-le-Bel - Amateur video indicates initial shock of police car against motorbike not very violent, car was damaged with metal bars afterwards and police is lying about it
- WHO'S WHO OF PREZ CAMPAIGN SECURITY ADVISERS - New list of security / FP advisors to US presidential candidates, surprisingly does not include the more well-known rabid neocons in Rudy's list
- Hillary Clinton's advisers too gung-ho on Iraq war, critics say - Is Hillary Clinton the hawk masquerading as the dove?
- 'Not very good' Saddam spy gets 4 years - Yahoo! News - More examples of the terrible threat to the US that Saddam represented. Hmm, let me think, what other Middle Eastern country successfully infiltrated spies in critical national security institutions?
- Police say Paris rioters are armed as clashes escalate - Officials in Paris last night warned that rioters in the suburb of Villiers-le-Bel were armed with hunting rifles and air rifles as clashes with police continued to escalate.
- Boom fuels new Saudi spending spree | Business | The Guardian - Annual revenues of $165bn are funding six new cities to create jobs - but can it last?
- Cairo International Film Festival - Home Page - Schedules, events, etc. (apparently Morocco is focus of festival)
- In Annapolis, Conflict by Other Means by Robert Blecher and Mouin Rabbani - "As for the Annapolis meeting itself, it is being greeted with indifference, with few believing it will lead to either meaningful change in their daily lives or substantive progress toward the end of an Israeli occupation now in its fifth decade."
Automatically posted links for November 24th:
- Pakistan Alerted U.S. It Planned Emergency Rule - WSJ.com - Bhutto: "My question is: If the U.S., which is giving more than $10 billion in aid, can't get him to lift emergency rule... what's the point of my negotiating with him?"
- WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK - Water scarcity in Egypt, with predictable social segregation
- Bent Al Maiidi, la Mona Lisa du Moyen-Orient | Babelmed - The Mona Lisa of the Middle East
- Returnees Find a Capital Transformed - washingtonpost.com - Drop in violence is encouraging some Iraqis to return
- Morocco strong, but not the same - Variety - Morocco gets big Hollywood movies because others in region censor
- Morocco celebrates 50 years of film - Variety - Film festival celebrates Egyptian cinema
- Saudi Rights Lawyer Sidelined - washingtonpost.com - Courageous Saudi lawyer gets the "hurting the country's image" treatment
- Robert Kagan - Musharraf and the Con Game - Another Musharaf-Mubarak comparison
- Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis - Long NYT piece on how youth from Tetouan became mujahideen
Automatically posted links for November 21st:
- Ù…Ø¬Ù…Ø¹ Ø§Ù„Ø¨ØÙˆØ« Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ø³Ù„Ø§Ù…ÙŠØ© ÙŠÙˆØ§Ù�Ù‚ Ø¹Ù„ÙŠ Ù†Ø´Ø± Â«Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ø³Ù„Ø§Ù… Ù‡Ùˆ Ø§Ù„ØÙ„Â» ÙˆÙƒØªØ¨ Ø¥Ø®ÙˆØ§Ù†ÙŠØ© Ù„Ù€Â«Ø§Ù„Ø¨Ù†Ø§Â» ÙˆÂ«Ù…Ø´Ù‡ÙˆØ±Â» - Egypt Islamic council authorizes publication of Ikhwan publications - this will have the conspiracy theorists going!
- "U.S. Seeks to Prosecute Pulitzer Prize Winning A.P. Photographer" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) - Pentagon to put AP photog on trial on dubious charges
- Ø®Ù„Øµ ! :: Ù…Ù† Ù†ØÙ† - Khalass! campaign in Lebanon, civil society urges politicians to resolve differences
- Beirut Is Not Tehran - Exum and McInerney on why the US should change policy in Lebanon
- Space Age Wudu - Ablution device from the future
- FT.com / World - Sharif hopes to end Saudi exile - Saudis pushing for Sharif as PM in Pakistan, against US wishes
- Islamists Today: Brotherhood Youth: A time bomb - Khalil al-Anani on the generational divide in the MB
- YouTube - Musharraf's crackdown on media - Al Jazeera report on crackdown on press, possible UAE collaboration
- Meeting Resistance: A film by Steve Connors & Molly Bingham - Movie about the Iraqi underground, has insider footage of insurgent cells