One of the most anticipated films in this year’s Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is Ahmad Abdalla’s Microphone, which won the Golden Tanit award at the Carthage film festival in Tunis.
Microphone depicts the diverse underground artists of Alexandria, whether they’re musicians, hip hop singers, skateboarders, filmmakers or graffiti artists, whom Abdalla describes as being very bold and progressive.
“The project was meant to be a documentary about graffiti artists at first,” Abdalla told Ahram Online. “There is a kind of war on the walls between the conservatives and revolutionists.”
But when Abdalla met the 20-year-old (then 19) graffiti artist Aya Tarek he got introduced to a world of underground musicians unknown to him, which later developed his project into a feature film depicting their lives.
In the film, Khaled (Khaled Abol Naga) returns to Alexandria after a long time away in the United States and discovers Alexandria’s underground art scene, in which he gets immersed.
“The musicians in Alexandria have a lot more room and time to create and rehearse,” says Abdalla, “Unlike here in Cairo, where the traffic and pollution hinder our lives.”
As expressed in his debut feature film Heliopolis, Cairo is a city where everything is at a standstill. It relays a day in the lives of several Cairene citizens, who at the end of the day realize that nothing much has been accomplished.
“There are several differences between Microphone and Heliopolis and there are similarities as well,” says Abdalla.
While Heliopolis presented Egyptian contemporary life by looking to the past, Microphone presents daily life by looking to the future. The tone also differs.
“Heliopolis was very silent,” said Abdalla “Microphone is filled with dialogue; there are rarely silent moments.”
Abdalla describes Microphone as an organic production, where everyone involved contributed their input and opinions throughout the production. He likes to work with friends, people he’s used to working with and first-timers. “With some people there’s immediate communication. They understand what the project is about,” says Abdalla. Actors Khaled Abul Naga, Yossra El Lozy, Mahmoud El Lozy and Atef Youssef were involved in both of his films and fall into that description.
The cinematographer Tarek Hefny is a first-timer in shooting a motion picture, yet is quite experienced in photography and knows the Canon 7D well. The entire film was shot using that camera. The natural light on location was their main source of lighting and the camera was hand-held to complement the spontaneous feel of the film. Taking a neo-realist approach, the band members and musicians appear as themselves in the film, telling their own stories dressed the way they usually do.
The film will be screened on 4 December at 11 a.m. in the Conference Hall of High Culture Council (Opera Grounds) and on 8 December at 9:30 p.m. in Family Cinema in Maady.
Cast: Khaled Abol Naga, Atef Yousef, Hany Adel, Yosra El Lozy, Ahmad Magdy, Mohamed Saleh, Salwa Mohamed Ali, Amgad Naguib, Menna Shalabi, Mahmoud El Lozy and Yousry Nasr Allah.
Director: Ahmad Abdalla; Assistant Director: Tamer Eissa; 2nd Assistant Director: Maii Waleed; Art Director: Amgad Naguib; Production Coordinator: Mark Lotfy; Sound Designer: Ahmed Mustafa Saleh; Line Producer: Hany Saqr; Editor: Hisham Saqr; Cinematography: Tarek Hefny; Producer: Mohamed Hefzy; Co-producer: Khaled Abol Naga.
Music bands: Massar Egbari, Y-Crew, Mascara, Soot Fel Zahma, Nossair.
Musicians: Ayman Asfour, Shadi El Garf, Shadi Nagy, Shadi Samir, Maii Walid, Mohamed Khamis, Nour Ashour, Wael El Said.