The fifth round of the Panorama of European Film in saw many good films and initiatives. Most popular among the audience this year were Rust and Bone, Oslo 31, Searching for Sugar Man, Ceasar Must Die and the Egyptian documentary Jews of Egypt by Amir Ramsis.
Though Jews of Egypt only had one invitations-only screening, another screening was scheduled later that day due to the large number of attendees. Perhaps the two most emotionally captivating films, however, were Rust and Bone and Cool Kids Don't Cry, while Oslo 31 managed to portray a depressive person in a quiet and subtle manner with masterful cinematic technique. Oslo 31, revolving around an ex-drug addict, profoundly portrays the feelings of detachment of a person who has been out of touch with society for too long. The mood of the drifter is particularly intense in one spellbinding scene in which, sitting in a café, the character pick up fragments of conversation from the people around him. Ceasar Must Die is also very well executed, and its idea was undeniably genuine. The film, which won the Golden Bear in this year's Berlinale, presents a group of inmates rehearsing Shakspeare's. During the rehearsal the whole prison is transformed into a theatre stage and at some point you begin to forget that it is a rehearsal. However, in some parts, the film fails to engage the audience. With many excellent choices, the movie Taped did not stand up to other films screened during the Panorama. The film is quite a successful parody of a thriller, and in its more intense moments, the whole audience was laughing. With the shaky, handheld camera, bad acting and a plot filled with holes, the film fails on the story and cinematic levels.
As last year the majority of documentaries concentrated on revolutions, this year there was a dominant theme of music. This could be seen in four films: Marley, El Gusto, Searching for Sugar Man and Seto Zad – about the Egyptian singer Shahrazad, made by her own granddaughter. One of the most interesting aspects of the festival was the film El Gusto and the discussion with the filmmakers. The story behind the making of the film is intriguing and gives it greater allure. Made by the architect Safinez Bousbia, it took nine years to see the light of day. The idea itself came as a fluke and the filmmaker never intended to make it on her own. It is perhaps this spontaneity that makes the filmmaker such an interesting character. It all started when Bousiba went to buy a mirror and found out the seller was a musician. He told her about the movement of Chaabi (folk) Algerian music, his friends and fellow musicians who have all moved to other countries. “At the beginning I only wanted to help him find his friends,” Bousbia, who attended the screening, told the audience. “I never intended to make a film. But then as the search went on, and I started visiting those musicians and I realised that this is a film.” However, as it was difficult to find someone to shoot the film, she decided it to make it herself and in consequence even sold her house and jewellery. Bousiba manages to have all the members of the troupe together and to have them rehearse for months until they manage to reconstruct their old orchestra El Gusto. There are many beautiful aspects to the film and many different themes tapped into. It relays the stories of musicians, interweaving them with Algerian history and portrays the rejuvenation of old men resuming what they thought had lost and the reemergence of dormant passions in a profound manner.
Seto Zad by Heba Yousry shows the same mixture of nostalgia and music. The film, made in a very personal vein by the granddaughter of the singer Shahrazad, is interesting in parts, yet too long. At some point it seems to go into a loop. Yousry demonstrates one of the most common pitfalls of a starting documentary filmmaker, which is excessive footage. Another guest at the Panorama was the maker of Three Worlds, Catherine Corsini, who talked to Ahram Online about the film and its themes. Highlights also included Jaques Tati's Les Vacanes de M. Hulot and the animation master-class. As a whole this year's Panorama had a large selection fitting different tastes, yet compared to last year's edition, for example, which screened The Artist, Pina, The Kid With a Bike and The Skin I Live In, it did not quite live up to expectations.