Director Ibrahim El Batout’s new movie ‘Winter of Discontent’ has been selected to compete in the Orizzonti Section of the 69th Venice International Film Festival. The Orizzonti section, literally meaning horizons, is the foreign language catagory and the festival is held from 29 August to 8 September. The movie features Amr Waked, who is also the movie’s main producer, Farah Youssef and Salah Alhanafy.
After spending the first few days of the revolution in Tahrir, Ibrahim El Batout left the country to go to the Netherlands to screen his movie ‘Hawi’ in the Rotterdam International Film Festival. When he returned on 9 February 2011 he experienced a flood of conflicting emotions. “I was shocked, taken by surprise, confused and happy all at the same time. And I tried to make sense of it in the way I know how – by filming,” El Batout told The Daily News Egypt in an exclusive interview.
With only a beginning of an idea El Batout contacted Amr Waked and the next afternoon they met up in Tahrir. “When I called Amr he immediately understood what I wanted to do and when we met the next day Amr had brought a crew along. We improvised a scene and shot it right then and there and made plans to continue filming the next day.Then Mubarak stepped down and we stopped filming to start working on the concept,” El Batout explained.
When the production started up again on 30 April the story line had not changed much from what El Batout originally intended. “Aside from a few details the story stayed the same. The movie tells the story of three people and how their relationships develop against the background of the revolution. Amr plays a computer programmer who does not take part in the protests, Farah portrays his girlfriend, a journalist, and Salah is a State Security officer,” El Batout said.
When asked about the tagline of the movie, ‘The pain that caused the fury’, El Batout said. “We are not claiming to explain why the revolution happened, there are a million reasons for that. We are telling the story of three people and uncover one of these reasons. As the story of Amr unfolds ,we learn he was arrested and tortured in 2009 by the State Security. As the country goes through the changes of the revolution so does Amr and do the relationships between the characters and a chance for healing begins,” He explained.
Besides being an award-winning feature filmmaker, El Batout has won several awards for the documentaries he shot in war zones. He is known for the way he portrays the dark sides of conflicts in an objective way, with integrity and an eye for human suffering. When asked if there is a relationship between his personal experiences and ‘Winter of Discontent’ El Batout said: “My background and experience helped me a lot, the subjects of capture and torture are close to me because of the work I used to do.”
Making independent movies in Egypt can be a difficult process in terms of funding and getting official permissions to shoot. “It was surprisingly easy this time, we had no problems in obtaining the permissions. Mind you, we were filming during and right after the revolution,” El Batout said. When asked if he expects this favourable climate to continue El Batout said: “I do not know what will happen. Things are still changing and it is not clear what the new political powers are going to do.”
While ‘Winter of Discontent’ will see its world premiere in Venice in August it is not clear yet when the movie can be seen in Egypt. “Amr is the main producer of the movie and is working on the distribution, his goal is to have ‘Winter of Discontent’ in Egyptian cinemas in January 2013,” according to El Batout.
Being selected to compete in the prestigious Venice Film Festival is a sign ‘Winter of Discontent’ will prove to be a movie worth watching. For those familiar with El Batout’s work this will come as no surprise.