11th Panorama of the European Film: We share our picks
 
 
Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker
 

In its 11th edition, the popular Panorama of the European Film (founded by Misr International FilmsMarianne Khoury and organized by Zawya) presents a lineup of over 70 films, spanning four venues across Cairo and more in ten other cities, including Alexandria, Minya and Ismailia.

In addition to its regular selections — screening narrative features, documentaries and first works by new directors — this year the Panorama is celebrating the centennial of Ingmar Bergman with a retrospective of some of his most notable works, and devoting four slots to landmarks of surrealist cinema. For the first time, the Panorama also includes a special segment for children and family films, which can be viewed in detail here.

Below are our culture team’s recommendations.

Main narrative features

Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski

Poland, France, UK, 2018

Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest feature is everything his remarkable 2013 drama Ida was — and more. Shot in the same black-and-white format with the Polish director’s striking asymmetrical compositions, Cold War follows the story of two ill-fated lovers across Europe during the 1950s, as they attempt to make a relationship within the confinement of heightening state control in Poland and a freer but alienating atmosphere among Paris’s intellectual circles.

Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is the pianist and composer in a Polish troupe producing performances inspired by the rich folk music of Poland’s remote rural villages. Zula (Joanna Kulig) is a young woman who catches his eye while auditioning for the troupe. Right from the beginning Wiktor senses that Zula is different, and when he finds out she isn’t a villager but a city girl who has done prison time for killing her abusive father, he is even more intrigued. An affair ensues, and when the troupe is set to perform in East Berlin — a landmark achievement in the eyes of the state representative assigned by the Communist Party to supervise the troupe — Wiktor asks Zula to meet him at a railway station so they can run away together across the border.

What follows is a sweeping romantic saga of epic proportions that follows through on its promise of exhilarating drama right to its haunting, yet not thoroughly convincing, end. Gone is the quiet chill at the heart of Ida: Here, despair makes itself heard in explosive bursts of anger and passion, beautifully played by Kulig and Kot. Cold War is an elegant, exquisitely crafted film that tackles complex notions of love and artistic ambition amid fear and political oppression. It’s an ode to all the bonds that have withstood — or crumbled before — the ugly face of totalitarianism.

The musical numbers, brilliantly choreographed by Pawlikowski, are a highlight of this film, which won the filmmaker the best director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Friday, November 9 at 7pm

Zamalek Cinema
Friday, November 16 at 7pm

The Image Book

Jean-Luc Godard

France, Switzerland, 2018

“Do you think men in power today, in the world, are anything other than bloody morons?” It has been argued that this essay film is Godard’s most accessible work in 30 years, ever since he left the prolific, free-wheeling days of the New Wave behind and began to practice what he’d long preached: “making films politically” — first with the Dziga Vertov Group, which he co-founded in 1967, and later on his own and with Anne-Marie Miéville.

The Image Book, which premiered at Cannes this year and won the Special Palme d’Or (an award the festival seems to have devised specially for the Swiss iconoclast’s latest), is an audiovisual collage of YouTube clips, news footage and scenes from classic movies (including Youssef Chahine’s Cairo Station [1958]) for a striking commentary on the state of the world today as Godard sees it. A kaleidoscope of over-saturated images is interlaced with an eclectic soundtrack and politically charged voiceover narration in the low, raspy voice of Godard himself.

It is not an easy film to get through, nor pleasant. Some parts, particularly those mixing ISIS propaganda with fictional killings in old films, are exceptionally unsettling. Moreover, the film’s second, shorter half — in which Godard turns his attention to the Middle East, critiquing portrayals of the region in Western media — is a bit jarring, as it feels substantially different from the first in terms of texture and tenor. Yet this marks the 87-year-old director’s first attempt at creating a film entirely from pre-existing footage, and his sharp, clever, occasionally playful editing alone merits a watch.

Do not go into The Image Book expecting to “understand” much. It makes for a memorable viewing experience, but a strange, inscrutable one (even if less so than expected).

Zamalek Cinema
Thursday, November 8 at 10pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Monday, November 12 at 7pm

Ricordi?

Valerio Mieli

Italy, 2018

Italian writer-director Valerio Mieli’s long-awaited second feature is not — to the joy of fans of his impressive 2009 debut, Ten Winters — a disappointment. This, too, is a love story, but one that is a lot more ambitious in storytelling and scope.

The film, which already screened in Egypt to rave audience reviews at El Gouna Film Festival, follows the long, winding relationship of two unnamed lovers, a woman (Linda Caridi) and a man (Luca Marinelli). The logic of the choice to refer to the protagonists as “he” and “she” throughout is clear: this story — the thrill, the disappointment, the heartache, the fiery arguments and grateful reunions — could be about any couple, anywhere in the world.

More interesting than the romance itself — which is, as established, pretty standard — is the complex idea of shared memories that Mieli seeks to dissect, and the technique with which he does it. He and she are reminiscing on the different stages of their relationship, and rather than just hearing about their memories we actually see them, each version different from the other. Excellent editing seamlessly moves between past and present without disorienting viewers, and the scenic locations — coupled with slow, smooth camera movements — contribute to an overall dreamlike quality that is perfectly in tune with the impalpability of memory and time.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Friday, November 16 at 4pm

The Death of Stalin

Armando Iannucci

UK, Belgium, France, 2017

This satire is based on popular French graphic novel La Mort de Staline (2010), which has been translated into numerous languages. It is a 107-minute fiction inspired by real events after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in March 1953.

It opens with a piano concert, as Stalin, elsewhere, signs off on a list of state enemies to be arrested, exiled or executed. The leader then decides he wants a recording of the concert, so he phones the head of the national radio, who in turn asks pianist and orchestra for a reprise and tells lingering audience members to stay. The pianist — she has family and friends that have been executed by Stalin — sends a protest note with the recording, and upon reading it the dictator suffers a stroke. (Stalin did request a recording of such a concert, but no such note was sent, although his favorite pianist was opposed to his regime.)

This setup takes us to the event that gives the film its name. When Stalin’s aides, members the Communist Party’s Central Committee, meet to discuss what should be done, all hell breaks loose. Central to the events that ensue is the attempt to seize power by secret police head Lavrentiy Beria — a cruel, squalid character played to perfection by Simon Russell Beale — and the attempts of other top members of the committee to put an end to his plans.

All the characters are based on real people, and the events blend facts with fiction. Even though at times The Death of Stalin falls resembles the stereotypical portrayals of the USSR enshrined in US cinema, it remains well worth seeing, if only to witness how director Armando Iannucci managed to turn such a premise into material for comedy.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Saturday, November 10 at 7pm

Zamalek Cinema
Wednesday, November 14 at 10pm

The Wild Pear Tree

Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Turkey, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, 2018

This is Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s first film after his Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep (2014). It is also lengthy (over three hours long) and dense in dialogue, yet a supremely engaging experience. Sinan (Aydın Doğu Demirkol), a recent graduate who has just returned to his hometown of Çanakkale, is seeking donations to publish his debut novel before taking an exam to become a teacher like his father. Yet as he spends more time in his village, catching up with people, from family to imams, writers, schoolmates and a former flame, he grows increasingly uncertain about the future awaiting him, and a sense of despair begins to take hold.

Despite the colorful cast of characters Sinan interacts with throughout the film, it is his rich, complicated relationship with his charismatic gambling-addict father Idris (Murat Cemcir) that gives the film most of its weight. It is also in a conversation between both men that we come to learn the metaphorical meaning of the film’s name, which is also the title of Sinan’s novel (referring to the picturesque landscape of Çanakkale where pear trees grow): All people who live in those areas, Idris says, are like wild pears — “misfits, solitary, misshapen.”

Masterfully shot at 6K resolution, with a soundtrack that recurrently uses Bach’s “Passacaglia,” The Wild Pear Tree is about the quest for answers, and the value of reconciling with one’s inability to find any.

Zamalek Cinema

Thursday, November 8 at 7pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Sunday, November 11 at at 7pm

Thelma

Joachim Trier

Norway, 2017

Critics have been comparing Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s fourth feature to Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), which makes sense, given the similar themes the films deal with, but it’s strange that nobody has mentioned Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010). The conflict at the heart of Thelma might not have to do with artistic obsession, yet here, too, a timid young woman discovers depths of feeling and expression she did not know she possessed, and the results are earth-shattering — sometimes almost literally.

Thelma (Eilie Harboe) is a freshman at an Oslo university, still grappling with her overprotective, ultra-religious parents’ attempts at controlling her lifestyle. She is wide-eyed with wonder but also anxious about her new surroundings, and it doesn’t help when she begins to experience fits that resemble epileptic episodes. The first is triggered by an attraction she feels towards another female student, Anja (Kaya Wilkins), and, as she visits a series of doctors, she realizes her body’s reaction is in fact a manifestation of telekinetic powers. We come to understand that her discovery of these abilities is directly linked to her sexual awakening.

Part super-hero film, part coming-of-age story, Thelma is an imaginative take on the body horror genre that also draws inspiration from the tradition of European art-house cinema. Although its storytelling doesn’t quite live up to its strong underlying statement or its sparse, striking visual style, this intriguing combination of influences makes it unmissable.

Zamalek Cinema

Wednesday, November 7 at 10pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Thursday, November 8 at 1pm
Wednesday, November 14 at 10pm

Dogman

Matteo Garrone

Italy, France, 2018

After his foray into fantasy with 2015’s Tale of Tales, Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone returns with a neorealist character study of a gentle-natured dog groomer slowly descending into the underworld of crime in a grim coastal town near Naples.

Marcello (Marcello Fonte, who won best actor win at Cannes) spends most of his time taking care of dogs at his shop, Dogman, or doting on his daughter (Alida Baldari Calabria). On the side, he quietly deals in small amounts of cocaine so he can take his daughter on diving trips every now and then.

Things take a violent turn when the town bully (Edoardo Pesce), an ex-boxer who is one of Marcello’s customers, persuades Marcello to join him on a burglary, and later uses his store to rob the gold shop next door. Marcello ends up in prison, and on his release a year later, he has nothing but vengeance on his mind.

Aside from the crisp widescreen cinematography, what makes this film so captivating is Fonte’s unusual, expressive face: how openly it conveys the confusion of a man watching the thin line he’d drawn for himself gradually disappear. Dogman is a film about choice and consequence, and the futility of trying to avoid either.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Thursday, November 8 at 7pm  

Zamalek Cinema

Thursday, November 15 at 7pm

Styx

Wolfgang Fischer

Germany, Austria, 2018

In Greek mythology, the Styx is the river that forms the boundary between the Earth and the underworld, and the name of the mermaid deity who sides with Zeus in the “Titan Wars,” after whom the river is named.

Rike (Susanne Wolff) is a doctor who spends her days treating road-accident victims. When she decides to take a break, she goes on a sailing trip with the hope of connecting with nature and leaving behind the din of the city. Then she encounters a leaking refugee vessel at sea.

The film, which has a distinct documentary feel, is very short on dialogue, using as few words as possible to draw the viewer into Rike’s dilemma. For Rike is the protagonist throughout, not the refugees, and the film de-politicizes her position as a European in relation to the crisis. Here, the source of the crisis are natural forces beyond anyone’s control. Styx still manages to reflect the moral quandary Europeans find themselves implicated in when it comes to refugees, however: alternating between a feeling of superiority and the desire to see oneself in the role of savior.

It also remains entertaining, steering clear of the approach typical of Hollywood disaster dramas, with tightly directed scenes and a visual style that meticulously conveys the predicament at hand — both the moral predicament of the European doctor, or the timeless predicament of human against nature, which is no more merciful than the “civilized” world.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Tuesday, November 13 at 7pm

Zamalek Cinema
Thursday, November 15 at 10pm

Emerging directors

Casanova Gene 

Luise Donschen

Germany, 2018

Casanova Gene opens with a man dressed as Casanova in what appears to be a carnival in Venice. He stands on a gondola dock and passersby film him, or film themselves with him. The rest of Luise Donschen’s feature, which could be described as an examination of desire, builds on this striking scene.

Successive vignettes are largely driven by the notion of desire, attempting to understand it by moving across different stories and lifeworlds. The film presents some information about birds, for instance — how each sex expresses desire during mating. The movements of two birds are documented: the female bird is still, the male bird moves incessantly within the cage.

This stream of explorations and intimations around the nature of desire is woven into the flow of the film, which is a hybrid of fiction and observational documentary. In one scene, John Malkovich unexpectedly appears in a dressing room, taking off his Casanova costume and wiping off his makeup, while a woman asks him questions; suddenly we have found ourselves watching an interview with Malkovich, the actor, about his portrayal of the character of Casanova, rather than Casanova himself.

Shot on 16mm film stock, Casanova Gene is visually alluring and mentally stimulating, and defies attempts at categorization.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Sunday, November 11 at 10pm

Zawya – Screen 2 (Cinema Karim)

Thursday, November 15 at 4pm

Girl

Lukas Dhont

Belgium, The Netherlands, 2018

Lara (Victor Polster) is a 15-year-old girl who was born in a boy’s body, and is determined to become a ballerina. This is the premise of Flemish director Lukas Dhont’s stunning debut, which runs in two parallel lines: Lara’s struggle with hormone treatments and therapy sessions preceding her gender-confirmation operation, and her struggle with the challenges posed by classes at the prestigious ballet school she is attending.

The film, which won this year’s Camera d’Or for best debut film at Cannes, is held together by the brilliant performance of Polster, a teenage male dancer who was selected after responding to Dhont’s gender-blind casting call.

What makes Girl stand out, other than the solid acting performances, is the angle it assumes in treating Lara’s story: unlike most films dealing with similar subjects, Lara’s conflict doesn’t have much to do with a disapproving society (her family is very supportive), but is mostly internal, which imbues the film with an urgent sense of intimacy. The choice to cast a cisgender person in the central role has surrounded the film with controversy, but in no way lessens its emotional impact.

Zamalek Cinema

Saturday, November 10 at 7pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Friday, November 16 at 7pm

Diamantino

Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt

Portugal, Brazil, 2018

Diamantino can be viewed as a film about today’s Europe: fearful of immigrants and of change beyond its control, desperate to protect its singularity by cultivating prototypes of the same ideal citizen, rife with nationalists that long to exit the European Union. This description might imply that it is a serious film, but Diamantino is an entertaining fantasy that pokes fun at pretty much everything.

One of the world’s most famous footballers, Diamantino (Carloto Cotta), costs his country the World Cup after he misses a penalty kick in the last minute of the final. Throughout his career, Diamantino has seen huge puppies running alongside him on the pitch, leading him to victory — the film’s first fantastical element — but this time he can no longer see them: instead, he sees a boat carrying a large number of migrants, a sight he witnessed with his father the day before.

He had had no clue about migration boats prior to that moment, and had only just learned the word “refugee” from his father (he mispronounces it throughout the film). After retiring following the ill-fated match, he decides to adopt a refugee child (he actually believes he can find one from Canada), in order to rescue him or her from their miserable fate.

As this happens, we are introduced to an intriguing collection of characters, including detectives Rihanna and Lucia, who are investigating the football star on suspicion that he is engaged in money laundering, as well as his evil twin sisters, who sign up their brother for a program run by the “Minister of Propaganda,” which involves locating the gene responsible for his football genius and using it to clone a team of 11 to “make Portugal great again.”

These disparate threads are interwoven to form an engaging satirical fantasy with a hint of sci-fi — an absurdist commentary that suits the absurdist moment we are living in.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Saturday, November 10 at 10pm

Zamalek Cinema
Wednesday, November 14 at 4pm

Documentaries

McQueen

Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui

UK, 2018

On the morning of February 11, 2010, avant-garde British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home, having hung himself after an overdose. He left a note, not addressed to anyone in particular, saying: “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.”

Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s moving, meticulous documentary digs into the psychological issues McQueen had been grappling with through candid interviews with friends, family members and collaborators. Most importantly, they also pay homage to McQueen’s visionary work, highlighting how his obsessions and inner demons found their way to his creations, turning them into unique, theatrical pieces that are still riveting eight years after his death.

Using McQueen’s controversial runway shows to bracket segments, the film exposes the outrageous lengths to which he went to make statements against the fashion industry, particularly when it came to models’ mistreatment.

McQueen is the story of how a chubby working-class boy become one of the world’s most sought-after designers, but also a heartbreaking account of creative genius both fueled and shattered by personal trauma. You don’t need to be a fashion devotee to want to see this.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Thursday, November 8 at 4pm

Zamalek Cinema

Saturday, November 17 at 4pm

The Cleaners

Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck

Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Brazil, USA, 2017

In early 2016, US artist Illma Gore’s painting Make America Great Again went viral on social media, though the artist was unable to secure a venue to show it in the US. Produced when Trump was still a presidential candidate, it prompted him to explicitly address the size of his penis during a televised debate.

In Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck’s gripping documentary The Cleaners, an internet content moderator in the Philippines contemplates the painting then offers her own interpretation of it: The artist’s decision to give Trump a small penis is intended to cast doubt on his ability to lead the US “because he is not enough of a man.” She decides to take the image down, because it is a “personal attack” on a presidential candidate.

The incident is one of many in the daily lives of “the cleaners” tasked with deciding what goes and what stays on the World Wide Web. By zooming in on the challenges they face on the job, the documentary touches on complex issues. One, for instance, is YouTube’s policy of deleting videos of the war in Syria, and the ensuing struggle of activists and journalists to restore them to counter the official media narrative of what is happening in the country.

The film gives its subjects room to talk about their attempts to protect internet users, including banning content that could be considered exploitative of children. Such bans are sometimes effected through legislative orders, as we come to learn through the story of a Google executive who, in 2006, presented a statement to a Washington court against websites hosting content that could be labeled as child pornography. The court’s verdict was that it was her responsibility to make sure such content is not easy to access.

The Cleaners is a riveting, at times bleak, film that sheds light on the dark, convoluted recesses of the networks that have become such an integral part of our lives. Not to be missed.

Zamalek Cinema
Sunday, November 11 at 4pm

Goethe Institut

Wednesday, November 14 at 7pm

I See Red People

Bojina Panayotova

Bulgaria, France, 2018

Bulgarian director Bojina Panayotova, who lives in France, returns to her home country after the outbreak of protests in 2013 against the left-wing coalition cabinet of Plamen Oresharski, accused of collusion with organized crime networks and figures from the former communist regime. “Red Rubbish” is one of the chants on the streets, but the director cannot bring herself to repeat it, despite joining the ranks of protestors.

Panayotova’s parents were Communist Party members before the collapse of the USSR, and the family left Bulgaria after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when she was a child. Now she is overcome with an urge to interrogate the history of her parents and grandparents. By resurrecting her red ghosts, she hopes to reveal the “wounds” of her country as part of a generation whose present is founded on the past’s submerged ruins.

The filmmaker tries to determine the depth of her parents’ involvement with the party, going to a government bureau to look at files showing their affiliation to the secret police, and, over long Skype conversations, attempting to extract confessions from them. They uneasily evade her questions — to them, the page has been turned, and there’s no use returning to it.

While some parts of the film are shot in high quality, others have a homemade quality which gives the image an air of intimacy and spontaneity. Although Panayotova rummages through uncomfortable memories, the film is not weighed down by them: it has the lightness of a trip, a familial warmth, and the safety of distance from this troubled past.

The clever juxtaposition of Communist propaganda footage and family home-videos makes I See Red People a rich archival film, and one that invokes the ever-present clash of generations. Panayotova asks many questions of her parents, but does she ask them of herself?

Zamalek Cinema
Sunday, November 11 at 10.30am

Institut Francais de Mounira

Wednesday, November 14 at 7pm

 Cassandro, the Exotico!

Marie Losier

France, 2018

Using a 16mm camera, French director Marie Losier follows the final stretch in the career path of the professional crossdressing, gender-bending Mexican wrestler Saul Armendariz — known as Cassandro the Exotico — who, at 47 years old, is definitely not thinking of retirement.

At first glance, Cassandro, the Exotico! appears to be a regular film chronicling the life of an athlete, which could have been the case if it weren’t for the protagonist, who is more of an artist than a wrestler. The film’s strength lies in the spirited tenacity of a lead performer brimming with life and vigor. Almost as important is Losier’s remarkable direction, who follows Cassandro to the gym, the wrestling ring, his dressing room and family barbeques, bearing witness to diverse moments in his vibrant life.

This film celebrates the choices and possibilities life has to offer. Cassandro is captivating, and you are guaranteed to catch yourself smiling for long stretches.

Zamalek Cinema
Wednesday, November 14 at 1pm

Zawya – Screen 2 (Cinema Karim)
Saturday, November 17 at 4pm

Thank You for the Rain

Julia Dahr

UK, Norway, Kenya, 2017

On a clear night, director Julia Dahr turns to Kisilu, her subject and filmmaking partner, and says: “The sky is beautiful tonight.” Kisilu responds: “No. This sky means trouble.” Dahr has come to Kenya to document the effects of climate change, but her plans change when she meets Kisilu, a farmer and activist. She watches him lecture a group of neighbors on the dangers of climate change, and asks if she can shoot him and feature his community activism efforts in her film. He agrees on condition that she give him a camera to film too.

Kilisu and his small community constantly suffer floods or extreme droughts. He tries to recruit as many people as possible to plant trees in order to stem the losses and build resilience. In addition to documenting his work, the film is also a case study of its protagonist, the energetic, optimistic leader, always trying to infuse others with his enthusiasm.

Interspersed with wide-angle shots of the sprawling landscape, the film immerses us in Kilisu’s remote African village, and at times one wonders if the director intentionally imbues these scenes with a sense of naiveté. But the film can serve as an entry point for discussions around the position of the camera-bearing white individual, who has the privilege of being able to travel to different places around the world, and is often received with open arms, eventually assuming — unconsciously, sometimes — the role of the hero to save others and the world.

Thank You for the Rain tries to critique this narrative sometimes, but the attempt may not seem serious enough. The climate is changing for sure, but perhaps the world is not.

Zamalek Cinema
Monday, November 12 at 4pm

Zawya – Screen 2 (Cinema Karim)
Tuesday, November 13 at 1pm

Infinite Football

Corneliu Porumboiu

Romania, 2018 

Laurentiu Ginghină feels an affinity for superheroes, for he too leads a double life. Years ago, the diligent government functionary, who used to assist people with mundane bureaucratic procedures, was injured during a football game while trying to keep a player in the opposing team from possessing the ball. Incurring a work injury to the same leg a year later, he has been unable to play football since. Ginghină has not moved on. He doesn’t consider his injuries a result of bad luck, but of the game’s flawed system. He wants to rewrite the rules of football.

In this sensitive film, which and carries sombre undertones of Romania’s current situation, the director accompanies Ginghină to the location of the old football pitch (now a derelict factory), to his home (where he explains the new rules he is proposing), and his workplace.

Twenty-nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall or, as director Porumboiu Corneliu — a member of the Romanian New Wave — sarcastically refers to it, “the revolution,” Infinite Football offers audiences no easy rewards. Corneliu disposes of most cinematic devices that guarantee entertainment: this is a visually austere piece that bets on offering something more.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Monday, November 12 at 10.30am

Zamalek Cinema
Friday, November 16 at 1pm

Young and Alive

Matthieu Bareyre

France, 2018

This film, which was screened in the official competition of the 71st Locarno Film Festival, tries to paint a picture of the political atmosphere in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2013.

Through interviews with young people of various political inclinations in the heart of the French capital, the film captures a current mood prevalent on the European continent — a state of confusion, discontent, distrust in the political establishment, fear of the future and muted anger threatening to explode at any moment. The stirrings of some sort of movement for change can be felt in the air, but evaporate as soon as they hit the hard ground.

Young and Alive is a film about young Europeans that is sure to generate important debate on how they see themselves in relation to the world. Besides the urgent subject matter, a spirit of visual experimentation coupled with the lively editing make it a film worth watching.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Friday, November 9 at 4pm

Institut Francais de Mounira

Saturday, November 10 at 5pm

Zamalek Cinema

Thursday, November 15 at 10.30am

A Woman Captured

Bernadett Tuza-Ritter

Hungary, Germany, 2017

Fifty-three-year-old Marish is held captive by the owner of the house in which she has worked for 10 years without wages, where Hungarian director Bernadett Tuza-Ritter spends a year and a half to film this engrossing documentary. Marish has also been working as a cleaning lady in a factory for 12-hour shifts, without ever getting a penny of her salary, because Eta, the owner of the house, takes all of it. The director has to pay her in order to continue shooting the film.

Marish, who looks two decades older than she is, is subjected to physical and verbal abuse from Eta. She barely sleeps, because she is forbidden to do so while Eta’s family is awake. Neither she or any of the Eta’s staff can eat without Eta’s permission. She can’t even see her daughter, who has run away to escape this degrading life. She longs for freedom but is fearful of retaliation from her employer, and she can’t find anyone willing to help — not even the police.

As Tuza-Ritter follows Marish closely around the house, a bond slowly develops between the two women, and the director finally wins the captive’s trust. Marish confides, sharing her fears and dreams, and eventually her plan to escape, which she gradually musters the courage to pursue.

There are parts in this 90-minute documentary that are very painful to watch, on account of the brutality on display. Sometimes it’s even difficult to breathe. But it’s a must-watch. There are an estimated 22,000 cases similar to Marish’s in Hungary alone, 1.2 million in Europe, and 45 million worldwide, as we find out. With skill and remarkable emotional intensity, Tuza-Ritter sheds light on what is referred to as “modern-day slavery,” a phenomenon that requires immediate, definitive action.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Saturday, November 10 at 10.30am

Zamalek Cinema
Monday, November 12 at 10.30am

Over the Limit

Marta Prus

Poland, Germany, Finland, 2017

Marta Prus has said in an interview that she has always wanted to make a film about rhythmic gymnasts, having been a gymnast herself at one point. The reason she chose Russia as the place to do it, she said, is because the country dominates the sport on the Olympic level, and in Russia it is mired in nationalistic propaganda.

Prus managed to sneak backstage during a competition in Moscow, where she met the head coach of the Russian Olympic team, Irina Viner, donning a fur coat, controlling everyone with a flick of her wrist, and strutting about the place like a movie star. Prus knew she needed a protagonist for her film, and after many attempts, she finally convinced Viner to allow her to film her star athlete, Margarita Mamun.

It would be easy to dismiss this film as another sports story about failure, perseverance and success — the usual cliches. But Prus draws an intimate portrait of Mamun that also works as a study of human vulnerability and of the body’s strength and fragility. At certain moments Prus’s sensitivity and precision — not to mention the incredibly cinematic characters, particularly the angry Viner, letting out a continuous stream of insults and criticism — allow us to forget that this is, in fact, a documentary, rather than a meticulously orchestrated fiction.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Thursday, November 15 at 1pm

Carte Blanche

Every year, the Panorama of the European Film invites three local filmmaking figures to choose a film that has influenced their work. The selection is usually a favorite, as it is often made up of classic works that film fans are thrilled to be able to watch on the big screen, and the films are always followed by engaging discussions with the filmmakers who picked them.

Underground

Emir Kusturica

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, 1995 

Screenwriter Mariam Naoum (One-Nil, 2009) has selected Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s landmark black comedy, which follows the heart-wrenching story of two “patriotic outlaws” in Belgrade, from the 1940s all the way to the early 1990s. It is a loud, rich, utterly engaging affair. As Deborah Young wrote in her review more than 23 years ago: “If Fellini had shot a war movie, it might resemble Underground.”

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Sunday, November 11 at 4pm

The White Ribbon

Michael Haneke

Austria, Germany, France, Italy, 2009

Filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky (Yomeddine, 2018) chooses Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning drama, The White Ribbon. In this subtly powerful black-and-white fable, Haneke weaves a compelling mystery in a small German town on the eve of World War I, examining what he has referred to as “the roots of evil,” and posing pressing questions about our wider contemporary world.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Friday, November 16 at 1pm

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel

France, 2007

Cinematographer Abdel Salam Moussa (Cactus Flower, 2017) will discuss Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), a poignant, artfully filmed portrait of suffering and resilience that chronicles Elle editor-in-chief Jean Dominique Bauby’s struggle with near-total paralysis. It is shot entirely from the perspective of Bauby’s left eye, the only part of his body over which he retained any control.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Monday, November 12 at 4pm

Ingmar Bergman Retrospective

Legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007) was born a full century ago this year, and in celebration the Panorama hosts a retrospective of four of films. Known for his harrowing, psychologically probing dramas — rife with distraught and restless characters — Bergman also made some of the most moving, honest portrayals of human vulnerability in the history of cinema.

Autumn Sonata (1978)

In this tense, poetic mother-daughter drama, Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman — in her only collaboration with the filmmaker whose last name she shares — gives a brilliant performance as Charlotte, a world-renowned concert pianist who shares a troubled relationship with her daughter (Liv Ullman, in an equally impressive turn). Over the course of one long, difficult night, both women revisit the wounds of their past in a desperate quest for catharsis.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Monday, November 12 at 1pm

Persona (1966)

Also starring Ullman (a recurring female lead in Bergman’s work), Persona is a bona-fide classic whose influence can be traced in countless other cinematic works. Following the fraught relationship between a depressed actress and the nurse assigned to take care of her, this visually stunning and philosophically compelling film is a sober meditation on female psychology and sexuality.

Zamalek Cinema

Sunday, November 11 at 1pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Thursday, November 15 at 4pm

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The infinitely more serious inspiration for Woody Allen’s Love and Death (1975), The Seventh Seal sees a knight (Max von Sydow) returning home from the Crusades play chess with Death, and ask the same questions about God and existence that Bergman remained preoccupied with in his later films. Here he confronts them without artfulness, in a direct, uncompromising manner.

Zamalek Cinema
Monday, November 12 at 1pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Friday, November 16 at 10.30am

Wild Strawberries (1957)

Another film that reflects on death, only more tenderly, despite its solemn moments. Isak Borg (played by major Swedish silent-era filmmaker Victor Sjostrom) is a scientist who, confronted by a disappointed daughter-in-law, begins an introspective journey into himself, revisiting scenes from his childhood in the process. One of Bergman’s lighter, most memorable films.

Zamalek Cinema

Tuesday, November 13 at 4pm

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)

Wednesday, November 14 at 1pm

Surrealist Cinema

This year, instead of focusing on a European city as in the last two years, the Panorama programmers zero in on one relatively untapped genre: surrealist cinema. It appears to be another winning selection that will be welcomed by many, many cinephiles around Cairo.

Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky

USSR, 1979

This is one of the Panorama’s best gifts this year. Who could pass up the opportunity to see this classic by the great Russian director on the big screen? Carefully sculpted imagery, signature long shots, and meticulous score make this a one-of-a-kind cinematic masterpiece.

Blurring the line between imagination and reality, the dystopia of Stalker touches on humanity’s relationship with the unknown. In the heavily philosophical drama, a writer suffering from loss of inspiration and a physicist hoping for a scientific breakthrough follow the “stalker” to the “zone” in search of a secret room that holds the solution to their problems.

The original film stock was damaged to the point of being unusable, so the entire film had to re-shot, but it was hailed, upon its release, as landmark cinema.

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Saturday, November 17 at 4pm

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Luis Buñuel

France, 1972

A group of bourgeois friends’ feathers are ruffled by a series of increasingly bizarre events, as every attempt to meet for dinner fails. With sarcastic sensibility, Buñuel pushes his poised characters to the edge, creating a spectacle out of their discomfort. One of the surrealist master’s most revered works.

Zamalek Cinema
Friday, November 9 at 4pm

Holy Motors

Leos Carax

France, Germany, 2012

This futurist dystopia imagines what will become of today’s sophisticated technological devices one day — mere artifacts of an age gone by? In this stunning fantasy, overflowing with bold, captivating visuals, we follow the adventures of Oscar, as Leos Carax playfully examines different aspects of “the digital age,” cinema, and role play. The French director has said he created a world that resembles ours but isn’t really it in an attempt to answer one question: What does it mean to live here, in the world, at this very moment?

Zawya – Screen 1 (Cinema Karim)
Monday, November 12 at 10pm

Endless Poetry

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Chile, UK, France, 2016

This is the latest from pioneering Chilean filmmaker and great experimentalist Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose work bursts with the colourful and grotesque, the shocking and exceedingly beautiful. In this, his most personal film to date (he was 87 at the time of filming), he tells of himself as a young man dreaming of becoming a poet. From the creator of The Holy Mountain (1973) and El Topo (1970), you know it won’t be just a regular autobiographical affair.

Zamalek Cinema
Tuesday, November 13 at 10pm

AD
 
Hadeer El-Mahdawy 
Leila Arman 
Mostafa Mohie 
Yasmine Zohdi