On 19 January, the Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival opened for the second consecutive year. This year, the festival aims at reviving the now-sluggish tourism in the ancient city. The festival attracts filmmakers from all over the world, eager to share their movies with Egyptian filmmakers and cinema critics.
On our first night at the festival on 21 January, the selected screenings were dubbed an “Egyptian night” by the moderator; we attended two short Egyptian films and a second screening of Amr Salama’s La Moakhza. There’s no doubt that Salama’s film was the main course for this audience. The screenings were well-attended but a significantly higher number of people showed up for Salama’s film than the first two shorts. The filmmakers of all three projects were available after the screenings to answer questions and hear comments from the audience.
The short films were directed by Ahmad Emad and Aya El Adl, respectively, in 2013. Emad’s film, called Scarf, was a curious mix of animation and live footage. It told a fragmented story of a couple and mixed reality with illusion. The result was a bit muddled, but Emad explained his artistic decision: “My experience is within the animated genre and this was the first time for me to shoot live footage. This is why the animated part seemed stronger for some.”
The second film was titled, “Only One Truth” by El Adl. Based on a short story by Italian author Alberto Moravia, it followed a young and successful working woman as she struggles to get out of an affair with a married man. There is more to the story that we do not want to give away, but as with the first film, the result is confusing without enough coherency to make it thought-provoking, specifically because the film ends with a somewhat poetic but baffling monologue by the protagonist.
When asked whether the film was about women’s issues, El Adl said: “The film is about a state of mind that I think anyone can relate to and is not about a specific class of women or women in particular.” El Adl was criticised by a local audience for portraying a single working woman who lives alone and has an affair with a married man.
After La Moakhza ended, a Q&A session began with the director, several actors and crew members (including Ahmed who plays Hany, the protagonist). The audience was visibly reluctant to ask questions about the film, though surprisingly many raised hands just to tell the filmmakers their positive opinion on the film, possibly because of the sensitive nature of the film’s topic.
There is no doubt that the screenings impressed the audience, if at least to encourage them to engage in a discussion afterwards, but the question remains whether or not this interest stemmed from local nature of the films and whether the European offerings will induce a similar reaction. This kind of cultural exchange is, after all, what the festival is aiming for, and interest in the European section is necessary. For now, we can say, however, that local independent cinema has enough interest to sustain itself in Luxor.