Voices in the crowd
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).