Berlinale-Blogger 2017 The form and content of artistic partnership

One Plus One Makes a Pharaoh’s Chocolate Cake
© Islam Kamal, Marouan Omara

Two directors collaborate to film with a VHS camera , telling a story that combines Islam Chipsy, one of the most famous Egyptian local composers, and Aisha Devi, the contemporary Swiss composer.

The two directors worked on the scenes according to written notes they received from one of the two parties. The product is the film entitled One Plus One Makes a Pharaoh’s Chocolate Cake by Marouan Omara and Islam Kamal, shown in the extended forum programme. The film as such is a model for the integration of content and form.

The content is the idea of artistic creation supported by collaboration between two producers whose cultural and artistic backgrounds are totally different. This collaboration seems planned by the two parties’ business managers, rather than Islam’s and Aisha’s enthusiasm for producing the song. In regards to the form, the structure of the film structure itself expresses the suffering, tension and endless possibilities in creating a work of art.

Islam Kamal, the co-director, pinpoints the origin of the ideas and choice of form, saying that: “The idea originated in the meeting of two types of music, which is seen as a universal language of communication. The social and cultural backgrounds of the two parties, however, put this definition to the test. This idea encouraged the use of an unusual image resolution via the replacement of high definition with VHS, which better suits the two types of music, since they depend largely on improvisation and momentary free oscillation.”

After so many scenes, a note like those of the montage appears on the screen as if it were a comment on the necessary omission of the scene, or at least its uselessness to the film. We know by the end that these were the notes received from Aisha’s business manager. Although, as we have already mentioned, he seems more enthusiastic to complete the experiment than she does, it turns out that he has some promotional goals. He is far removed from the idea that an artist is after art, and always has a real urge towards experimentation which may be obstructed by the clash of artistic desires, particularly in the matter of the artist’s exodus from their safety zone.

Marouan Omara partly agrees with this approach, saying, “I agree that the film shows the business manager’s interest in completing the partnership more than the artists’. Yet, I cannot justify this by a lack of interest on the part of the two artists in collaborating with each other. My personal experience of artistic production, whether with Egyptians or people of other nationalities, is that the idea of artistic partnership is more complicated than just the artist’s Ego or safety zone, despite their importance.”

The partnership also appears in the film's intro, which states that it is directed by Marouan Omara in collaboration with Islam Kamal: "Islam Ahmed, the important visual contemporary artist, views it as a form of injustice to present him as just a photographer and co-montage worker. Titles are an attempt to give him his due credit as a participant in the achievement of the whole work.”