10th Panorama of the European Film: What not to miss

The Panorama of the European Film is celebrating its 10th edition with a diverse program that includes many of the year’s most acclaimed releases, in addition to a few iconic classics. Launching today, the lineup boasts more than 45 films, spanning 11 days across 10 cities, with a particular focus on Irish documentary shorts, and rare films from the Lumiére Brothers and Jean Rouch archives in the Panorama Classics section. Below, Mada’s culture team picks its favourite titles from this year’s exciting selection.

Main Narrative Features

The Square

Ruben Östlund

Swedish director Ruben Östlund, director of 2015’s celebrated Force Majeure, returns this year with a film even more memorable and unsettling. The Square, which won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, follows Christian (Claes Bang), the director of a contemporary art museum in Stockholm, as two parallel incidents threaten the stability of his privileged life: his mobile phone is stolen, and the promotional video for his latest art show causes a huge scandal.

The film satirizes bourgeois European society, specifically the elite of the art world, represented by Christian — a remarkably unlikeable character who is difficult to empathize with as he maneuvers to dodge responsibility for his actions throughout most of the film, trying in every way possible to avoid confronting their results. Yet this is the whole point: The Square is Östlund’s own attempt at disturbing the stagnantly secure circles he portrays in his film, and it is a rather uncomfortable experience.

Two hours and 22 minutes long and filled with long and awkward set pieces that — despite being inherent to the film’s structure — often come at the expense of a solid narrative, The Square is not always clear, nor is it necessarily entertaining. It does, however, have a peculiarly strong effect; pinning you to your seat although you may find yourself squirming in it at times.  

Wednesday November 8 at 6:00 pm in Alexandria
Friday November 10 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Thursday November 16 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

Loving Vincent

Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
UK, Poland

Bringing Vincent van Gogh’s iconic artworks to life, Loving Vincent is captivating from its first moment onwards. The world’s first oil-painted feature, it was created with the help of 125 specially trained painters and is composed of 65,000 painted frames fully inspired by Van Gogh’s painting technique. The impressively reenacted brushstrokes create the perfect medium to transport us to the world of one of the most celebrated artists in history.

The story revolves around the legendary Dutch painter’s imagined last days, in which a mystery unfolds as the film’s vividly portrayed characters, several of whom are featured in famous paintings of his, try to find out the truth behind his death in the small French country town of Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890. Throughout the film, we are exposed to snippets of Van Gogh’s brief but deeply influential life and glimpses of the his delicate, troubled soul.  

Friday November 10 at 7:00pm in Port Said and at 10:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Friday November 17 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

On Body and Soul

Ildikó Enyedi

Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, On Body and Soul marks Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi’s return to feature filmmaking after an 18-year break. Best known for her Camera d’Or-winning My Twentieth Century (1989), Enyedi weaves a searing, albeit bizarre, portrayal of an enigmatic relationship in her latest work, juxtaposing airy and enchanting dream sequences with almost unwatchable jabs of brutal realism.

Set in a Hungarian slaughterhouse, the film follows the strange romance between Maria (Alexandra Borbély) and Endre (Géza Morcsányi), who begin to grow closer after they discover they both have the same dreams every night, where they are a pair of deer nuzzling together in the snow. Through the startling imagery of the majestic deers in the dreams and the carved-up cows in the abattoir, On Body and Soul sets to explore the duality in its title, taking viewers on a journey that is at once touching, humorous and at times melodramatic.

Beautiful camerawork and a hauntingly poignant score accentuate a film that is — although inconsistent — refreshingly original, and charming in its own strange way. (If you’re a vegetarian or an animal lover, however, you may find it hard to get through some of the film’s explicit sequences of animal butchery.)

Saturday November 11 at 10:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Thursday November 16 at 10:30 pm in Zawya Cinema
Saturday November 18 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos

This year, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos returns with yet another remarkable film starring Colin Farrell (The Lobster, 2015) as Steven Murphy, a successful and wealthy heart surgeon. Married to the elegant and beautiful Anna (played by Nicole Kidman), and father to Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic), Steven seems to have the perfect family life, yet as The Killing of a Sacred Deer progresses we begin to realize that he actually leads a privileged but rather empty existence.

Aided by excellent performances, cinematography, and sound placement, Lanthimos draws a brutal portrait of justice and redemption that starts as an awkward satire and gradually shapes into a flinching thriller. When Steven first befriends 16-year-old Martin, the son of a man who died on his operating table a few years back, we do not understand the nature of their relationship, but the story takes unexpectedly horrifying turns, and it becomes apparent that revenge has a role to play.

Winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival (in a tie with Lynn Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, also screening in this year’s Panorama), The Killing of a Sacred Deer is gripping from its opening shot — a striking close-up of a beating heart during surgery — and remains an engrossing experience throughout.

Thursday November 9 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Friday November 17 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema


Michel Hazanavicius
Italy, France, Myanmar

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the man behind The Artist (2011), and based on a biography by Jean-Luc Godard’s second wife, Anne Wiazemsky, Redoubtable is an often entertaining portrayal of the couple’s relationship as experienced through the prism of Godard’s political awakening. Wiazemsky met Godard on the set of La Chinoise (1967) — Godard’s first attempt at overtly political filmmaking — and stayed together in what is conveyed as a co-dependent toxic relationship through the May 1968 student riots, and Godard’s subsequent attempts at creating a truly radical cinema.

To his fans, Godard is nothing less than a film god, and making a biopic he didn’t sign off on, and that depicts him as overly-critical, humorless and unlikable is a brave move. Louis Garrell brings an abrasive intensity to the role of Godard, while Stacy Martin embodies Wiazemsky’s nymph-like presence, although confusingly she looks far more like Masculin Féminin’s (1966) Chantal Goya than Wiazemsky. As Godard finds himself increasingly lost during these revolutionary times, his brilliance turns to petulance while Wiazemsky tries to cope with his changes.

Even though the film was found by some to be one-dimensional, it utilizes Godard’s signatures to nostalgic appeal. At one point, the camera pans up Martin’s naked form à la Brigitte Bardot in Le Mepris (1963); while a cocktail party conversation evokes Pierrot le Fou’s (1965) iconic scene, primary coloured lighting and all. Although it’s probably not the film hardcore Godard fans wanted, Redoubtable is a funny, paint-by-numbers biopic about a man who revolutionized cinema as we know it, and remains a significant attempt nonetheless.

Thursday November 9 at 6:00 pm in Alexandria and at 10:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Monday November 13 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Thursday November 16 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

The Other Side of Hope

Aki Kaurismäki
Finland, Germany

Set against the backdrop of the Syrian refugee crisis and the cold, harsh industrial environment of Finland, renowned Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope is a perfect mixture of melancholy and light-hearted humor. Adopting a humanistic rather than outrightly political view of the refugee situation, the story follows Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Finland and searching for his lost sister, as he befriends Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a Finnish restaurant owner who takes him in after he escapes the threat of deportation.

The film is also a treat for fans of Kaurismäki’s earlier work, especially 2011’s Le Havre, as it follows a similar theme and is rife with the uniquely stylistic choices that distinguish the director’s aesthetic. An electrifying classic rock and roll soundtrack lightens the film’s sombre tone, complementing its untraditional and unreserved approach to a very serious subject, while its solid story and relatable characters paint a touching yet unsentimental picture of cultural integration, granting moments of pure laughter without allowing viewers to lose sight of the protagonist’s despair.

The Other Side of Hope won the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

Thursday November 9 at 7:00 pm in Port Said
Friday November 10 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Friday November 17 at 10:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

A Violent Life

Thierry de Peretti

A politically charged crime saga, A Violent Life revisits the forgotten nationalistic and political conflicts on the French island of Corsica in the 1990s, through the story of a young radical activist and his group of friends who are manipulated into taking part in the armed conflict in the name of revolution.

Taking viewers on a fast-paced journey through the crime-ridden streets of the island, the film documents the moral degradation of its young, troubled characters as they dig deeper into a shady world of political violence and intrigue. Although to someone previously unfamiliar with Corsican history the film might appear too complex at times, it is still captivating throughout its tense 107 minutes of runtime.

The colourful cast of mostly unknown first-timers strengthens the gritty realism de Peretti employs in portraying the intricacies of his characters’ perilous lives, presenting an immersive picture of Corsica and paying clear homage to classic action-driven gangster films.

Wednesday November 8 at 10:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Thursday November 16 at 7:00 pm in the Institut Français
Saturday November 18 at 4:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

Screenwriting masterclass with writer-director Thierry de Peretti: Saturday 18 November at 12:00 pm in Cimatheque


Julian Rosefeldt
2015 (installation) – 2017 (feature film)

Originally conceptualized and exhibited as a multi-screen video installation, Manifesto is German visual artist Julian Rosefeldt’s directorial debut. The film is an imaginative collage of philosophical declarations written by some of the most influential political thinkers and avant-garde creators in modern history, from Karl Marx and André Breton to Werner Herzog, and performed with astounding versatility by Academy Award-winning actor Cate Blanchett.

In 13 disjointed vignettes, Blanchett portrays an array of wildly diverse archetypes to which she lends depth and character, despite the fact each of them gets only a few minutes of screentime. With every segment filmed in a setting that appears disconnected from the words being said, it becomes a rewarding — even enjoyable — mental exercise to try and figure out the connections; some are relatively clear, while others are subtler and many seemingly nonexistent.

One exceptional scene sees Blanchett as a schoolteacher reading lines from artistic manifestos by a number of iconoclastic filmmakers. “Remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to,’” she advises her students, inspired by Jarmusch’s 2004 “Golden Rules of Filmmaking.” With Manifesto, Rosefeldt follows through on this adage. He employs the work of others to create something entirely his own, standing not only as a tribute to those texts, but also to the endless possibilities of artistic practice.

Saturday November 11 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Tuesday November 14 at 7:00 pm in Ismailia
Wednesday November 15 at 10:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

Scarred Hearts

Radu Jude
Romania, Germany

Based on the semi-autobiographical novella of the same name by Romanian author Max Blecher, Scarred Hearts, set in 1937, tells the story of Emanuel (Lucian Teodor Rus), a young poet who spends his last days in a sanatorium, immobile and confined to his bed, mingling with other patients and falling in love while being treated for bone and joint tuberculosis.

With his distinct visual style, director Radu Jude employs a warm colour palette and a fixed camera perspective throughout the whole film, inviting us to witness the lives of the patients as they laugh through their pain and cling to joy despite their fatal illnesses, all through the eyes of Emanuel.

Using Belcher’s poetic prose as commentary, the film manages to retain a solemn, sophisticated tone, while at the same time preserving its unique sense of humor. Emanuel’s philosophical and sarcastic wit stays intact throughout his despair, as he observes the small world of the sanatorium — which qualifies as a mini-portrait of life itself — and finds solace in the unlikeliest of places.

Scarred Hearts won the Special Jury Prize at the 2016 Locarno International Film Festival.

Sunday November 12 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Tuesday November  14 at 10:30 am in Zamalek Cinema
Saturday November 18 at 4:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

Emerging Directors

Montparnasse Bienvenüe

Léonor Seraille

One of the year’s most talked about debuts, French writer-director Léonor Seraille’s Montparnasse Bienvenüe is an entertaining character study of a young woman — or “Jeune femme,” as implied in the film’s original French title — struggling to make it in Paris’s Left Bank neighbourhood of Montparnasse after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend. Paula (an intense performance by Laetitia Dosch) appears at first to be aimless and somewhat entitled, but as the film progresses, we are exposed to the rich, multi-layered aspects of her personality, in an insightful portrayal that reflects the film’s almost exclusively female crew.

Throughout Montparnasse Bienvenüe, we follow Paula as she hops from one job to another, reflects on an old relationship and contemplates a new one, and oscillates between light-heartedness and anxiety throughout. Speckled with significant moments of humor and sincerity, the film is not so much plot-driven as it is an attempt to capture the compelling energy this untraditional character emanates in her quest for a future to latch on to. Think Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (2013), with the streets of Paris as a backdrop rather than New York City’s.

Montparnasse Bienvenüe (named after the central Metro station in Paula’s neighbourhood) was screened in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard selection, with Seraille winning the Caméra d’Or.

Wednesday November 8 at 7:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Sunday November 12 at 10:30 am in Zawya Cinema
Wednesday November 15 at 10:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

Scary Mother

Ana Urushadze

An exhilarating trip into the human psyche, Ana Urushadze’s debut feature, Scary Mother, is an engaging experience. The psychological drama follows Manana (Nato Murvanidze), a repressed 50-year-old housewife who finally decides to indulge her long dormant desire to write.

As she finishes her book, Manana gradually loses her grip on reality as well as the empathy of her family, who are disturbed by her obscene writing. A potent sense of nightmarish horror grows with the tormented mother’s slow descent into madness, as she increasingly identifies with the lead character of her book, a mythological winged female demon who feeds on pregnant women and embryos.

Urushadze’s dynamic directing, coupled with Murvanidze’s powerful performance, a chilling soundtrack, and solid and at times explosive, dialogue, Scary Mother makes for a profoundly immersive experience, guaranteed to keep a firm grip on viewers’ attention throughout its terrifying twists and turns.

Friday November 10 at 10:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Saturday November 18 at 7:00 pm in Zawya Cinema


Documentary Rendezvous

In Praise of Nothing

Boris Mitic

“Nothing” is the central character and narrator in this 78-minute documentary by Serbian director Boris Mitic. Voiced by punk icon Iggy Pop, the playful and insightful narration stretches over footage filmed by 62 cinematographers in 70 countries, which took the director almost nine years to put together.

Mitic places the richly diverse footage—presenting each director of photography’s visual interpretation of “nothing”—in a sequence accompanied by inventive verses of text that he wrote himself, contemplating on life, death, politics, gender, and all kinds of random ideas. The film’s experimentation lies not only in how it was produced, but also in the space it allows the viewer to decode the narrator’s relationship with the imagery, and to reflect on the elusive nature of  “nothing” as a concept.

In Praise of Nothing is a challenging watch, but it is definitely rewarding.

Wednesday November 8 at 4:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Friday November 10 at 4:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Monday November 13 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Saturday November 18 at 10:30 am in Zamalek Cinema

The Good Postman

Tonislav Hristov

In a small Bulgarian village on the Turkish border with only 38 inhabitants, Bulgarian filmmaker Tonislave Hristov follows the electoral battle between two candidates in the local mayoral elections. Ivan, the village’s postman, runs for mayor on a platform that is sympathetic and supportive to Syrian migrants, against another younger, prejudiced village resident who is heavily opposed to the idea.

Not only is the The Good Postman gorgeously shot, making good use of the village’s scenic landscape, it is a thoughtful and deeply moving study of a community that — through dissecting its particular intricacies — sheds a light on bigger issues. One of the film’s remarkable feats is also how it remains true to its subjects, maintaining an unmistakable sense of reality, while at the same time unfolding in a solid, narrative-like structure that is engaging throughout.

In an interview earlier this year, following the film’s screening in the Sundance Film Festival’s World Documentary selection, Hristov speaks about his unique approach to documentary filmmaking, explaining that while he does sometimes stage certain scenes, he believes that “minimal interference doesn’t mean maximum reality.” And while most documentarians might disagree, The Good Postman is considerable proof that Hristov might be onto something.

Wednesday November 8 at 4:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Monday November 13 at 10:30 am in Zamalek Cinema
Friday November 17 at 4:00 pm in Zawya Cinema


I Am Not Your Negro

Raoul Peck
Switzerland, France, Belgium, USA

Haitian director Raoul Peck seems to have dedicated the past two years to projects revolving around influential twentieth century political icons, with his two films showing in this year’s Panorama: The Young Karl Marx and I am Not Your Negro, which is based on American writer, political commentator and social critic James Baldwin’s texts.

The 93-minute documentary, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, juxtaposes Baldwin’s text from his unfinished manuscript Remember This House, which references civil rights activists Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., with footage from American television and films from across the century, along with clips from the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

The award winning, critically acclaimed documentary is both visually captivating and informative, with an engaging narrative and valuable insights on the history and current reality of racism and the civil rights movement in the United States.

Saturday November 11 at 4:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Sunday November 12 at 7:00 pm in Ismailia

Carte Blanche

This segment of the Panorama, in which an Egyptian filmmaker selects a film that has influenced them and discusses it with the audience afterwards, has proven to be one of its strongest, and this year is no exception. Not only are all three films considered cinematic landmarks for different reasons, but the ensuing conversations with the filmmakers are always filled with insights into their own work and the depths of the creative process in general.

Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) – Aly Badrakhan

Veteran director Aly Badrakhan (Al-Karnak, 1975) has selected Luis Buñuel’s daring drama starring Catherine Deneuve as a young married woman who spends her afternoons working as a high-class sex worker, in one of the French actor’s most iconic roles.

Saturday November 11 at 1:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Saturday November 18 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

Eternity and a Day (Theo Angelopolous, 1998) – Tamer El Said

In the Last Days of the City’s (2016) Tamer El Said will discuss Theo Angelopolous’s Palme d’Or winning Eternity and a Day, which follows a famous writer (Bruno Ganz) on a poetic trip across memory on his last day on earth.

Saturday November 11 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Tuesday November 14 at 10:30 am in Zawya Cinema

Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1996) – Kamla Abu Zekry

Film and television director Kamla Abu Zekry (A Day for Women, 2016) has chosen to screen Breaking the Waves, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s drama about a young, devout wife who finds herself at a spiritually challenging situation.

Friday November 17 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema

Urban Lens: Mysterious London

Last year marked the Panorama’s first Urban Lens selection, and, focusing on Berlin, it was one of the program’s highlights. This year, it’s another major European city but with an extra twist: thrillers and crime films taking place in London. Including three highly celebrated films set in the UK capital, we leave it up to you to take your pick from the program, or—better yet—go see all of it.

Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)

The legendary filmmaker’s penultimate feature follows a former police officer as he tries to uncover a rapist-murderer in a suspenseful, disturbing mystery.

Sunday November 12 at 10:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema
Friday November 17 at 10:30 am in Zawya Cinema

Sapphire (Basil Dearden, 1959)

Director Basil Dearden’s big break, Sapphire is a serious depiction of racial tensions in 1950s London, packaged in a thrilling crime drama that quite unconventional for its time.

Friday November 10 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema
Tuesday November 14 at 1:00 pm in Zamalek Cinema

Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950)

A masterfully crafted film noir, Dassin’s Night and the City remains one of the US director’s most highly acclaimed works.

Saturday November 11 at 10:30 am in Zamalek Cinema
Tuesday November 14 at 1:00 pm in Zawya Cinema



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