This year, theaters were shuttered as audiences either stayed home or went out to protest, and eventually Egyptian producers pulled their new releases, including Ahmed Ezz’s romance 365 Days of Happiness and Karim Abdel-Aziz’s comedy We Will be Right Back, off the screens entirely. Even after the nation went back to relatively normal work hours, cinemas had to cancel midnight shows due to curfews and security reasons. In all, box office losses reached LE 30 million during that early season.
Stars who opposed or criticized the revolution or joined the Mubarak supporters in Mohandiseen’s Mostafa Mahmoud Square found their names on a website called “The List of Shame” that demanded a boycott of their work. Among those blacklisted was comedian Talaat Zakareya, whose summer release The Elephant in the Handkerchief bombed at the box office. Tamer Hosny, who during the revolution left Tahrir Square in tears after failing to persuade protesters to forgive his pro-Mubarak statements, tried to make a comeback with a new album Elli Gaay Ahla — it flopped — and a Ramadan TV series Adam that was not well received. At press time, Hosny’s new film Omar & Salma 3 has been shelved indefinitely.
A blacklisted Ghada Abdel-Razek fared slightly better with her Ramadan serial Samara and new film Kaf el-Qamar (Qamar’s Palm), selected to headline the Alexandria Film Festival (AFF) in October.
Amid fears of instability and lack of security, newly appointed Minister of Culture Emad Abou-Ghazy canceled all state-supported film festivals and art events for 2011. He changed his mind for the independently organized AFF, which became the first major festival to take place after the revolution. Taking the AFF as an example, several other independent film associations formed to launch their own festivals in Luxor, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Cairo in 2012.
The good news in film this year is the international attention Egypt’s filmmakers have received for their revolution-inspired works. The AFF hosted a special section for the many short films and documentaries about the revolution by up-and-coming young filmmakers. A number of other international festivals dedicated special sections to the Egyptian revolution. At the Cannes Festival in May, several of the nation’s veteran filmmakers showed up to present 18 Days, a collection of ten short films screened as part of a tribute to Tahrir.
Among the critically acclaimed Egyptian films to make Egypt Today’s must-see films of the year, Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and The Politician; 18 Days and Cairo Exit were cofunded by Gulf festivals and consequently made their regional premiere at the funding festival. At press time, they were still awaiting their Egyptian release. Al-Mosafer (The Traveller) starring Omar El-Sherif and Khaled El-Nabawy and Hawi by Ibrahim El-Batout have been released in select theaters.
Starring Hanan Youssef
and Sherif El Dessouki
Shot in Alexandria, the story follows the journey of Youssef, a prisoner released after five years of solitary confinement and his encounters with many desperate yet inspiring people.
TAHRIR 2011: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE POLITICIAN
Directed by Tamer Ezzat, Ayten Ameen and Amr Salama
A three-part documentary exploring three aspects of the revolution in the eyes of three filmmakers: Ezzat shot an exhibition of drawings and caricatures inspired by January 25, while Ameen decided to interview police officers who gave their own version of attacking the demonstrators. The final segment by Salama shows, in funny animated sequences, the different steps to becoming a politician.
Directed by Ahmad Abdalla, Mariam Abou Ouf, Kamla Abu Zekry, Ahmad Ala, Mohamed Aly, Sherif Arafa, Sherif El Bendary, Marwan Hamed, Khaled Marei and Yousry Nasrallah
Starring Ahmed Helmy, Mona Zaki and Youssra
Cannes premiered this two-hour film consisting of 10 shorts directed by ten Egyptian filmmakers. The stories are inspired by or take place during the revolution. Best segment: Sherif Arafa’s Retention where mental hospital patients wrongfully committed for their political views follow the events leading to the revolution through their TV set, mostly censored by the regime.
By Hesham Issawi
Starring Maryhan and Mohamed Ramadan
Taking place in one Cairo’s poor neighborhood, this is an independently produced drama about a doomed love story between a Muslim man and a young Coptic woman whose parents drive them to rethink their future.
AL-MOSAFER (THE TRAVELER)
Directed by Ahmed Maher
Starring Omar Sharif, Khaled El-Nabawy and Cyrine Abdel-Nour
El-Nabawy and Sharif both play the protagonist Hassan in three different stages. In 1948, Hassan meets Nura on a boat but they are eventually separated. In 1973, Hassan meets Nadia, Nura’s daughter, and is led to believe he is Nadia’s father. In 2001, Hassan prepares to meet Nadia’s son, with a hope that he could be his grandson. et