The 9th Panorama of the European Film starts in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailia this week, and we’re excited. Organized by Misr International Films—Youssef Chahine, the lineup includes over 50 feature films and 33 shorts, divided across eight sections, including two new ones: animation and a city focus (Berlin). Lara El Gibaly, Jenifer Evans, Rowan El Shimi and Andeel have looked through the labyrinthine program and bring you 30 recommendations placed in categories that may draw your attention.
Films that take you on a search for something that may not exist (Lara El Gibaly)
Twenty-two-year old Oleg lives with his mother, who tries various “treatments” to get her oddball son to behave more “normally,” believing him to be both autistic and slacking. When she signs him up to participate in a play, shy Oleg seems to have one interest: to land his first kiss. Oleg seems way more likeable than his overbearing mother, and I’ll watch this documentary just to be reminded that it’s possible to resist ideas of normalcy.
November 2, 3:30 pm, Zawya; November 4, 3:30 pm, Cinema Karim; November 9, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim
Young Alma sets out on a quest to find her family’s olive tree, which was sold years ago to the heartbreak of her grandfather. This feature sounds adorable, which isn’t a quality that always appeals to me, but a search for a tree to make an old man happy combines adventure, family and the environment!
November 8, 6:30 pm, Zawya; November 11, 9:30 pm, Cinema Karim
Little Rauf is on a quest for something pink: not an easy task in his small rural town in Anatolia, where blankets of snow dominate a barren landscape. If he finds pink, he thinks, surely his crush Zana will return his love. This film won the special jury prize at the 2016 Istanbul International Film Festival. Directors Barış Kaya and Soner Caner will attend the screening to discuss the film.
November 4, 6:30 pm, Cinema Karim (Q&A); November 7, 9:30 pm, Zawya
Narrated by an awkward Brit who seems to be the antithesis of the 1980s Berlin cool this film (documentary? re-enactment? It’s difficult to tell) is all about. B Movie appears to be a mash-up of the frenzied sounds and sights of a version of the city that’s already disappeared, living on only in the archive footage that comprises much of this film and in the fantasies of those currently trying to live Berlin, as it once was (you know who you are).
November 4, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim; November 7, 3:30 pm, Zawya
Films that make your heart beat faster because they push you out of your comfort zone (Jenifer Evans)
I’ve wanted to see this for ages. Remixing Virginia Woolf’s 1928 gender-bending, time-flouting fantasy novel Orlando and Tod Browning’s cult 1932 circus-film Freaks, this comic, camp and excessively experimental “theater of human difference and transformation” is very rarely screened. Stars Magdalena Montezuma, Delphine Seyrig, Eddie Constantine and Jackie Raynal. Hala Lotfy (Coming Forth By Day), who chose the film, will talk about why.
November 3, 1:00 pm, Zawya; November 4, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim (Q&A); November 6, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim
This documentary details the police killing of Mark Duggan in London in the summer of 2011, which ignited the worst civil unrest in recent British history. The film is said to be thoughtful, well-made and important for understanding how bleak living in London is for many people. It follows Duggan’s two friends Marcus and Kurtis as they reflect, seek justice and try to improve their lives. Both will also come to Cairo, alongside Amponsah and producer Dionne Walker, for a Q&A.
November 6, 3:30 pm, Zawya (Q&A); November 10, 3:30 pm, Cinema Karim
Doris Dörrie’s “post-disaster traumedy,” shot in Fukushima’s Exclusion Zone in black-and-white, was very well received at this year’s Berlinale and sounds intriguing yet worrying. Despite being all about the recent nuclear disaster, it is said to be quirky and absurdist, involving a clown, a geisha and some ghosts.
November 3, 9:30 pm, Cinema Karim; November 5, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim; November 9, 6:30 pm, Zawya
Set in Lampedusa, an Italian arrival point for many making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, this documentary juxtaposes hard-hitting, reportage-style footage of people being rescued or dying at sea with a portrait of a local 12-year-old boy. This careful combination is said to be powerfully effecting as an act of bearing witness and an argument for compassion. Editor Jacopo Quadri will speak about the film.
November 5, 6:30 pm, Zawya (Q&A); November 6, 9:30 pm, Cinema Karim
I had to include a gangster film, partly because there’s nothing better than a good gangster film and partly because they do make your heart beat faster – though more due to car chases than comfort zones. Set in an underprivileged part of Marseille, the film has revenge, drug dealing, a lot of violence and, sadly, no proper female roles. I’m willing to give it a try though. Non-professional actors Foued Nabba, Zine Darar and Oussama Abdul Aal will be in Cairo to talk about their experiences of being in the film.
November 6, 10:30 am, Zawya; November 7, 6:30 pm, Zawya (Q&A); November 12, 9:30 pm, Karim
Conversation-driven dramas in which quirky characters say awkward things (Rowan El Shimi)
This film sounds reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight trilogy. I’m a sucker for non-cheesy romantic stories featuring two strangers from different places who meet in a foreign country and have conversations about life and love. 2 Nights till Morning has all of this, plus it happens against the backdrop of Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud that suspended flights around Europe for days In 2010.
November 3, 6:30pm, Zawya (director Q&A); November 7, 9:30pm, Karim; 9 November, 1:00pm, Zawya
After Love presents a convincingly tense and suffocating drama about divorce after a 15 year marriage, with endless arguments around kids’ schedules, who gets the house, and whether they should even divorce in the first place. He can’t afford to move out, so they’re living together in the Brussels flat in which the film is set. The lead performances have been widely praised.
5 November, 9:30pm, Zawya; 10 November, 6:45pm, Plaza Cinema (6 October City); 11 November, 6:30pm, Cinema Karim
What do you do when your best friend’s dying wish was for his ashes to be scattered across the UK on a road trip according to his video instructions? Comply of course. This feature film follows the journey of the deceased’s two friends, as they take his ashes (in a plastic container) and a laptop with video instructions for their trip. Burn Burn Burn looks funny and sad.
6 November, 6:30 pm, Karim; 8 November, 6:30pm, Cinema Donia (Ismailia); 10 November, 9:30pm, Zawya
The only new Egyptian film in the Panorama
This just-released documentary gets its own category, and we think it will be good. Titi is an 84-year-old Jewish Egyptian communist who has watched history unfold since 1935 from his balcony overlooking Tahrir Square. His Ashkenazi mother’s family fled the pogroms and met his Turkish Sephardic father here. When Titi became a communist at 15 he was forced to call himself Albert Arié. But he always stayed in Egypt.
November 10, 3:30 pm, Zawya (director Q&A); November 12, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim
Films about maleness (Andeel)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s personality is a caricature of a struggling alpha male in a corrupt, harsh world, which is what many men in the world believe their lives are like, or at least hope or fantasize they are. His theatrical performance of masculinity reveals the absurdity of that dream, while taking it very, very seriously. This biopic looks classic and exciting and seems to be made by people who understand the difference between a good goal, a bad goal and a bad goal that looks good.
November 2, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim; November 11, 3:30 pm, Zawya (director Q&A)
In my memory, this is a weird epic Egyptian movie about history, but with lots of white people in it. Chahine’s Al-Nassir Saladin is one of Egypt’s most remarkable historical films, but it was very politicized and didn’t seem to be the freest or most expressive of Chahine’s ideas. Adieu Bonaparte, about the occupation of Chahine’s native Alexandria, looks like an interesting experiment with a lot of French money in it. We’ll get the chance to see a newly restored copy.
November 4, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim – November 7, 1:00 pm, Zawya
Chaplin’s invasion of the speaking-film world after decades of silent cinema and a lot of hesitance toward voice is truly worth it. One of my favorite Chaplin movies, and maybe one of my all-time favorite films. This movie contains seeds for jokes that continue to be recycled by comedians. A very important film to watch if you are interested in Sisi.
November 7, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim; November 12, 10:30 am, Zawya
This very short excerpt strongly suggests that this film is made by mad people. I’d happily watch it and meet with the darkest of my fantasies. Silent stop-motion animation and intense music is always a very powerful combo.
November 2, 10:30 am, Zawya; November 10, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim
The film is about two middle-aged men, terminal illness and a much-loved dog who will soon need a new home. It is set in Madrid and is reported to be very watchable.
November 9, 9:30 pm, Cinema Karim; November 10, 6:30 pm, Zawya
Gripping stories that actually (sort of) happened (Rowan El Shimi)
For me, one of the coolest things about the Panorama is the documentaries: a genre that I love, yet rarely see on the big screen. Those Who Jump is set in the Spanish city Melilla in northern Morocco. Already a strange reality in itself, Melilla is a fenced in European city within an African, Arabic country. Add to that a story about a man, like thousands of other migrants, who tries to jump this enormous fence in search of a better life. I imagine it’s worth seeing.
November 10, 1:00 pm, Zawya (director Q&A); November 10, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim
In 2010, when this film was made, Neukölln, the southern Berlin neighborhood, where you hear more Arabic than German and find lingerie shops like those in downtown Cairo, was less of a hipster neighborhood than it is now. This documentary takes us on a journey with three siblings with Lebanese roots as they try to keep their family from being deported from Germany using their hip hop and breakdancing talents.
November 2, 3:30 pm, Cinema Karim
While I was at Rotterdam Film Festival this year, everyone was talking about the cinematic genius of The Land of the Enlightened. Happily, this film is not one but two films — the actual film, a docufiction, and a documentary about its making, which seems almost as fascinating as its subject. Made over seven years by Belgian director Pieter-Jan de Pue, the film tells the story of a gang of Afghan kids who dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to other kids working in a lapis lazuli mine, as American troops withdraw from the land.
The Land of the Enlightened, director Q&A and The Last Omelette: November 9, 3:30 pm, Cinema Karim; The Land of the Enlightened: November 11, 10:30 am, Zawya
For Panorama’s Carte Blanche section, in which three Egyptian filmmakers each select a film for public screening, veteran director Khairy Bishara picks the 1966 Czechoslovakian masterpiece Closely Watched Trains. Set in a small town occupied by Germans in World War II, the film focuses on an apprentice train-watcher who cares more about having his first sexual experience than the war around him. A coming of age tale set against a world war and Nazis? Yes please!
November 11, 1:00 pm, Zawya Cinema (Khairy Bishara Q&A) – 12 November, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim
An Afghani female teenage refugee rapper flees a forced marriage in Tehran — the plot of this documentary hits all the juicy jackpots. But from the trailer and various reviews, it looks like this award-winning film will go deeper than its sexy topics to give us a better understanding of life for an Afghani woman living in this situation and longing for freedom.
November 8, 3:30 pm, Zawya; November 12, 3:30 pm, Cinema Karim
Films more populated by ghosts than characters (Lara El Gibaly)
A mother (Juliette Binoche) and her son’s girlfriend are confined in an old villa, waiting for the son’s arrival. As days pass the two grow closer, but the mother is hesitant to reveal the truth about the son’s absence. Messina was assistant director for Paolo Sorrentino’s spectacular The Grand Beauty, and The Wait is predictably cinematically dazzling, but some have said that there are too many unanswered questions.
November 3, 9:30 pm, Zawya; November 8, 6:30 pm, Cinema Karim
When a young unidentified woman is found dead near Jenny’s medical practice, Jenny cannot accept that she will be buried without a name and decides to find out the deceased’s identity. Made by the veteran Belgian filmmaking duo (The Son, Rosetta), we should be in good hands for this one.
November 3, 6:30 pm, Zawya; November 4, 6:30 pm, Zawya; November 10, 9:30pm, Cinema Karim
A very well-received, semi-autobiographical debut set in the 1990s during Georgia’s civil war, this film tells the haunting story of a family who makes it to the winning side and is assigned to live in a house formerly inhabited by the defeated enemy. It is said to be visually stunning.
November 2, 1:00 pm, Zawya; November 4, 9:30 pm, Cinema Karim; November 12, 6:30 pm, Zawya
We see Berlin from above, flitting in and out of the lives of its inhabitants through the perspective of two solemn, quiet-spoken angels (one who longs to give up his immortality to be with a trapeze artist). I never actually finished this film, falling asleep halfway. But it’s said to be a cinematographic masterpiece.
November 3, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim
A beautiful ode to the power of imagination and the human spirit, this film tells the story of a Stasi agent assigned to monitor the lives of a playwright and his lover in 1980s East Berlin. Setting up camp in their attic, he listens to every moment of their lives and slowly becomes entangled in their affairs. The film puts your ear to the keyhole and lets you listen in on dangerous secrets. It is said to have won 76 awards.
November 5, 10:30 am, Zawya; November 9, 1:00 pm, Cinema Karim
By acclaimed Turkish filmmaker Ceylan (Once Upon A Time in Anatolia), this quiet, powerfully melancholic but also funny film tells the story of Mahmut, a jaded photographer who reluctantly offers refuge to his young relative Yusuf as the latter looks for a way to leave Turkey. The film won the 2003 Cannes Grand Prix. It was chosen by filmmaker Mohamed Hammad, who will talk about why he admires it.
November 5, 1:00 pm, Zawya (Mohamed Hammad Q&A); November 7, 10:30 am, Cinema Karim