Egypt, 2010, 120 min
Ahmad Abdalla’s thrilling second feature is a tribute to Egyptian underground art, especially music, but also graffiti, independent film and really any kind of creative expression. It’s both a love and hate letter to Alexandria and its thriving youth movement. The film follows a number of local scenesters but focuses mainly on Khaled, an engineer recently back in Alexandria after several years in America. He’s finding the transition tough: His former girlfriend has moved on and his job can’t keep his interest. He is a music fan, however, and his dream of putting on a concert leads him to a world of DIY musicians, artists and filmmakers. This crew provides the film’s backbone—and soundtrack. Great music courses through from the opening credits—mainly hip-hop but also metal, pop and other genres. Meanwhile, there’s a constant tension between the artists and the state. Each band vies for government funding and a spot on a government-sponsored showcase, but each is told their music is too obscene or too critical of the state. It’s impossible not to watch all this in the context of post-Mubarak Egypt, and while this film was made well before recent events (and is very much an Alexandria story), the elements of a young people’s revolution are all here. They’re fed up, and frustration feeds their art. Abdalla interweaves elements of cinema verité, and the film feels like a potent slice of Alexandrian life in all its vibrancy and frustration.
Presented in association with Arab Film Festival.