Berlinale Blog Creativity and strength: Egypt at the Berlinale

“Acapella” | © Islam Safiyyudin Mohamed

Egyptian filmmakers are presenting some exciting productions this year at the Berlinale. We take a brief look at the films and some events on the sidelines.

The Egyptian lineup at the Berlinale 2014 was overshadowed by the Oscar-nominated film The Square – Al midan by Jehane Noujaim. This year, not many Egyptian productions are screening, but the curators of the Berlinale have selected an assortment that displays the topical creativity and strength of current Egyptian cinema.

Subject-matter drawn from everyday life

The most noteworthy of them all is Barra Fel Share' – Out on the Street by young filmmakers Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk. This 77-minute film follows a group of workers in Helwan, a borough of Greater Cairo. Ten factory employees take part in a drama workshop. During the rehearsals, they have to confront issues they are all too familiar with from their own workaday lives: discrimination in the workplace, police brutality, corruption and exploitation. “We were inspired by how courageous people are, how strong in the face of their bosses,” explain Metwaly and Rizk. “These workers risk being demoted, losing their jobs, or being beaten by police, military, or hired thugs, arrested or tried before military tribunals.”

The Goethe-Institut Cairo provided funding to help the two young directors travel to this year’s Berlinale, and did the same for their colleague Islam Safiyyudin Mohamed. Through the symbol of a prison cell, his short film Acapella explores the power that “one true moment of awareness” can have: “It carries the potential to counteract a lifetime of complacency,” says Mohamed. “To conceive a different way to known, run-down models, an automated existence, systems that fail because they are based on a game that is fixed from the get-go.”

Corresponding with Fellini

Mohammad Shawky Hassan’s 24-minute Wa 'ala Sa'eeden Akhar – And on a Different Note shows an attempt to create a private, personal space amid the constant noise of ubiquitous, sometimes absurd and always mutually interchangeable political talk shows.

Last but not least, in La Dolce Siria, Ammar Al Beik enters into a cinematic correspondence with the famous and long since deceased director Federico Fellini. It becomes a sad, poetic conversation about sad, real-life Syria. With financial assistance from the Goethe-Institut, Hossam Elwan, the film’s producer, was also able to fly to Berlin for the festival.

And for the first time at the Berlinale, an Arab Cinema Center (ACC) has been set up with a view to providing an international platform for Arab films. The ACC is organized by MAD Solutions, an agency based in Cairo and Abu Dhabi. Youssef El Shazli, the director of the Zawya Cinema in downtown Cairo, will also be attending the festival, and taking part in a panel at the Berlinale’s Talent Campus to discuss cinema in the Arab world.