I was lucky to see a selection of socio-political films from this years’ BBC Arabic Film Festival, which were screened at Oxford’s St Antony’s College: “This is Exile. Diaries of Child Refugees” and “Cairo Drive”
“This is Exile. Diaries of Child Refugees” (Mani Y. Benchelah, Syria, 56″) was commissioned by Save the Children. Mani had previously done documentaries for Channel 4 and is very skilled in creating the space for his characters whose voices lead the narrative. In a short QA, the organisations’ representative revealed that help and mental support are being provided to parents who due to stress are very often unable to save their vulnerable children from negative effects war and resettlement have on developing a sense of security and trust. However it is very difficult to work with trauma these people have undergone when the dangers are still existent. The film was shown also to the UK Parliament.
It will return as part of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival programme in July 2017 http://www.arabartsfestival.com/liverpool-arab-arts-festival-2017
“Cairo Drive” by Shereif ElKatsha was filmed in Cairo’s down-town over a 4-year period 2009-2012, before and during the Arab Spring. It shows the country’s mentality through the way its population drives in this world’s busiest city. The American/Egyptian director gives a diverse cast of characters a voice to the background of the ever congested streets of Cairo that follow a no-rule system. What comes out is a a picture of collective struggles such as bribes, fatal accidents, regime patrols, sentiments towards marriage, curious street-interaction, special horn communication system and the opinionated as well as witty character of Egyptians. It is intentionally funny up to a point, since this was not meant to be a pop-movie but rather a real representation of the society that is tired and drained only after having to cross the streets.
Thanks to a press pass and also to a very hard to get permission from the Cairo Traffic Police head, the director managed to give the viewers an insight into the daily workings of the traffic police as well.
– I received a lot of criticism from Egyptians especially those who’ve been living abroad for 20 years, for picturing Egypt in a negative light. This was not the case in Egypt where it was very well received.