CAIRO: Whether your tastes run to the life story of a real-life artist and national hero,a man’s journey of spiritual revelations or a group of European 20- somethings discovering love and life, the Cairo International Film Festival is serving up an artistic meal fit for all tastes.
Over the past eight days, the festival has shown a variety of movies, depicting different genres,convictions and nationalities.
China’s entry in the competition section is a slowpaced feature following the story of real-life artist/monk Great Master Hong Yi. A pioneer in different arts, including music, painting, calligraphy and poetry, he introduced modern/Western art to the Chinese traditional heritage. He then became a monk in Hu Pao Temple. The film, Yi Lun Ming Yue (A Bright Moon), is part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chinese film.
Director Lu Qi and stars Pu Cunxin and Vivian Hsu spent five years making the film, which attempts to survey the monk’s life, from birth to death. While the film’s plot appears disjointed at times, the natural scenery, art direction and tender dramatic story substitute for a strong plot.
Japan’s entry in the competition is in a similar vein to the Chinese offering.
Adanfollows the life of artist Takashi “Isson Tanaka in his struggle for recognition and his withdrawal from city life in the pursuit of creativity.
The film’s story focuses on Isson’s relationship with his sister Kimiko, who dedicates her life to caring for her brother; she earns money while he paints.
The film also ventures into the psyche of the artist throughout the creative processes and displays a number of his breathtaking paintings.
Set during the same period as the Japanese and Chinese films, Mother of Mine is a Finnish drama during World War II. The emotionally charged movie tells the story of a boy as he moves from his Finnish house to live with a Swedish family, narrated by the boy as an adult.
The boy, his mother in Finland and the members of the Swedish family all have skeletons in their closets affecting their interaction with each other. Amidst the tension, the boy grows confused over who his real mother is.
Zozo, a Lebanese/Swedish production, is set during the Lebanese civil war a few decades later and follows the title character as he copes with war. Following tragic mishaps, he finds solace in the idea of immigrating to Sweden.
The film received acclaim from various critics and is featured under the “Arabs in World Cinema section. The biography of the film’s young director, Joseph Fares, closely resembles the life of the lead character – he was born in Lebanon but moved to Sweden during the civil war. Fares was honored early in the festival for his achievements in international cinema.
Other offerings were primarily set in modern times. The French Russian Dolls, a sequel to L’aburege Espaniol, follows the group of European students featured in the first film after they returned to their home countries.Their exploration of love, themselves and their capabilities and desires draws them back to each other – watching the first film is not necessary to understand the plot of the sequel. The romantic comedy, although classified under the feel-good genre, is unexpectedly neither cheesy nor mundane.
Who the Hell’s Bonnie and Clyde? is another coming-ofage story, but this time with a romantic thriller plot. The Hungarian film follows a young couple as they escape police after a bank heist. Throughout the non-linear narration of the story of the real-life couple, the press calls them the Hungarian version of Bonnie and Clyde, although the couple fails to understand the metaphor.
Arab cinema also provides a coming-of-age story in the Yemeni New Day in Old Sanaa. Set entirely in the old part of the capital, the film marks the country’s first long feature, directed by Bader Bin Hersi.
In a fairy-tale like narration, provided by an Italian photographer enthralled by the magic of the city, a number of Yemeni youths rediscover themselves and their loved ones over the course of one eventful day. They re-examine class divisions, love and marriage, but within the limitations of this traditional city and under the watchful eyes of its gossiping women.
Rediscoveries and self-exploration aren’t confined to the young. So Close, So Far is an Iranian drama focusing on the character development of an emotionless physician after he learns of his son’s fatal illness. While the lead character may be cold and impassive, the film features an emotional plot and piercing script.
In yet another journey of self-discovery, Door to Seven Stars follows a pilot as he explores life outside the military. His eccentric encounters and the people he meets take him back to India,where he lived as a child and where his mother died. The Italian film is set between Europe and India.