This year’s edition of the Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam is marked by a prominent Egyptian presence, with a total of 10 Egyptian films to take part in the festival’s main section, the Short Focus: Kaleidoscope section, and the Short Focus: Mosaic section.
The festival is set to open on Wednesday 11 October with Sherif El-Bendary’s 2016 film Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim.
The film follows two male protagonists leading odd and troubled lives on a bizarre cross-country road trip. One of the two men, Ali, is in love with his goat, Nada; while Ibrahim is haunted by screeching sounds that no one else can here.
The two meet at a clinic, and following the doctor’s orders, they embark on a voyage to throw their “healing stones” into the three main water bodies of Egypt: the Nile, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea.
El-Bendary’s comedy is a touching tale of friendship, adventure, and self-discovery. The film will also be screened on Thursday 12 October.
Joseph Adel’s 2016 short film A Jar Full of Fish will be screened as part of the Short Focus: Kaleidoscope section on Thursday 12 October.
The film follows Youssef, a 28-year-old man who leaves his home in Upper Egypt during the 2011 revolution to become a filmmaker in Cairo. Upon his arrival, he struggles with feelings of loneliness and insecurity, but finds an unusual companion in a small goldfish.
Four more Egyptian films will be screened on Friday 13 October. Mohamed Rashad’s 2016 feature Little Eagles; Magdy Ahmed Aly’s 2016 film Mawlana; Youssry Nasrallah’s Brooks, Meadows and a Lovely Face; and Marwan Hamed’s 2017 film Al-Asleyeen.
Little Eagles is an Egyptian-Lebanese co-production that tells the story of a young Alexandrian man named Mohamed.
The son of a modest worker, he dreams of moving to Cairo to become a filmmaker. His relationship with his father, with whom he has been living alone since his mother’s death, is so strained that he feels no guilt leaving him behind when he travels to Cairo.
In the capital, he meets Salma and Bassam, whose parents were both leftist opponents of the regime in the 1970s.
Mohamed begins to research his father’s history, hoping to find something to impress his Cairene counterparts with; only to find out that his father lived a simple life, working to earn a living and raise his son. His journey is not only a quest for answers, but a profound comparison between the life of his generation and that of his father’s.
Magdy Ahmed Aly’s Mawlana is a drama that follows Sheikh Hatem (Amr Saad), whose moderate religious stances bring him much opposition in a society plagued with fundamentalism. The protagonist goes from leading prayers at a government mosque to becoming a popular TV icon, gathering millions of fans with his unconventional religious rhetoric.
Throughout the film, Sheikh Hatem navigates many personal and professional conflicts, and struggles to stay true to his beliefs and not allow himself to be taken in by other people’s political agendas.
The film’s controversial topic and Amr Saad’s acclaimed performance rendered it one of the most discussed in the region after its release.
Youssry Nasrallah’s 2016 film Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces follows the story of Yehia, a chef who manages a catering company with his sons Refaat and Galal.
The first is a passionate chef, the second, a womaniser. Yehia is set to marry his cousin Karima, but both of them are in love with other people. During a wedding catered by Yehia and his sons, a rich couple offer to buy his business, and when Yehia refuses, the offer turns to a threat.
Marwan Hamed’s Al-Asleyeen follows Samir, a father who works in a bank to provide for his family and struggles to find a new job after he is fired.
Due to old debts, Samir reaches the point of bankruptcy. He finds a box at his doorstep, containing a phone on which he finds footage from his past, before receiving a phone call that will forever change his life.
Four more films from Egypt are set to screen on Saturday 14 October, the first of which is Besoy Youssef’s 2017 short film Hidden Lust, which will be screened as part of the Short Focus: Mosaic section.
Through the story of Radyah, whose husband Sayed makes her spend her wedding night inside of a box, the film aims to portray the dark side of human nature.
Two other films are Yassin Koptan’s 2016 short film Piece of Wood, and Iman Kamel’s Jeanne D’Arc Masriya (Egyptian Joan of Arc)
Piece of Wood will take part in the Short Focus: Mosaic section.
The film tells the story of Adam, a young skateboarder who attempts a new trick at the local mall while being filmed by his friend George. When a security guard takes away Adam’s skateboard, he and his friends attempt to retrieve it in several ways.
Jeanne D’Arc Masriya blends the documentary genre with some fictional elements, poetic narration and dance to tell the true stories of Egyptian women’s resistance after the outbreak of the 2011 revolution.
It follows filmmaker Iman Kamel’s journey into the Western Desert, where she discovers the diary of a Bedouin girl named Jehanne. Inspired by the girl’s struggle to become a dancer and break free from patriarchal oppression, Kamel calls on the help of fellow female artists to trace Jehanne’s whereabouts.
Throughout this adventure, the women share their own stories of aspiration and resistance over the past five years.
Lastly, Kamla Abou Zeid’s 2016 film A Day For Women will be screened as part of the “Ladies Night” programme, which welcomes female attendees with goodie bags, snacks and other treats.
The film revolved around a youth centre in one of Egypt’s underprivileged neighbourhoods that decides to allocate a day at the swimming pool for women’s use only.
Abou Zeid’s film portrays the impact of this decision on the social, psychological and emotional lives of local women. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with actress Elham Shahin. The film will be screened again on Sunday 15 October.