Berlinale Blog No safety net

Film still “Barra fel Share‘”
Film still “Barra fel Share‘” | © Jasmina Metwaly, Philip Rizk

In “Barra Fel Share” (“Out on the Street”), Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk explore the social injustices that triggered the revolution in Egypt in 2011. The young directors’ first feature celebrated its world premiere at the Berlinale 2015.

Metwaly and Rizk are members of Mosireen, a media collective that combine “street journalism” (aka “citizen” or “public” journalism) with cultural-political activism. Since 2011 Mosireen have been probing social issues in Egypt in brief YouTube reportages only a few minutes long.

Injustice, police brutality, corruption

Barra Fel Share’ is about injustice in the workplace, police brutality and rampant corruption. The camera follows a group of ten factory workers in Helwan, a borough of Greater Cairo, who are all used to being exploited day in, day out. They have to live with it in order to survive. When one day they begin rebelling against the prevailing conditions, they risk far more than just losing their jobs.

In two different ways, however, Metwaly and Rizk have tampered with the documentary-style lens through which we see the action: For one thing, the workers are politically committed amateur actors who have jobs and problems in their real lives very close to those enacted in the film. For another, the directors make use of a drama workshop to stage the injustices that prevail in the factory. During the workshop, Metwaly and Rizk exercised directorial restraint, leaving themselves and the actors room for improvisation. There was a clear-cut opening, but no script. The emphasis was on the process of working on the film together.

Stark focus on the issues

Barra Fel Share‘ experiments with various stylistic devices. Through its video aesthetic, in which the camera always keeps close to the actors, and its theatrical staging, making do with only the most essential props, Metwaly and Rizk succeed in zeroing in with remarkable clarity on the basic issue here: a life of insecurity, with no safety net at all. A life “out on the street”. That the film may be construed as a metaphor for the current situation in Egypt is quite intentional.