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Egyptian film shot in Cairo's Tahrir Square to vie in Venice festival

Set against the backdrop of Egypt's January 25 Revolution, Ibrahim El-Batout's 'Winter of Discontent' will premier at the 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival, set to open Wednesday

Ahram Online, Wednesday 29 Aug 2012
tahrir square
Hundreds of thousands of protesters assembled in Tahrir Square on June 5, 2012 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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'Winter of Discontent,' a film on a concoction of lives during Egypt's revolution, will compete in the Venice Film Festival, scheduled from 29 August to 18 September.

The film, which is competing in the festival's Orizzonti section (devoted to new trends in world cinema), will be screened on three consecutive days: 31 August at the Sala Darsena; 1 September at the Sala Grande; and 2 September at the Palabiennale.

The film is the latest by Egyptian director, Ibrahim El-Batout. Unlike his earlier award-winning films, such as Ithaki or Ain Shams, Winter of Discontent does not contain extracts of documentary material. Instead, the filmmaker sometimes actually shot straight in Tahrir Square right in the middle of real events of the revolution.

Inspired by the spirit of the revolution and its humanist aspect, El-Batout began filming on 10 February - one day prior to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from 30 years in power.

During the press conference downtown at El-Falaki Theatre at the American University in Cairo, Al-Batout stated: "Everyone who lives in this country must do their utmost to make the most of this period in our history." This is where the motivation of the film came from.

The protagonists of the movie are a political activist named Amr (Amr Waked), journalist Farah (Farah Youssef) and state security officer Adel (Salah Al-Hanafy). The humanist aspect of the movie is presented through the relationship between the protagonists shaped between 2009 and 2011.

Amr, 35 years old, is a victim of torture at the hands of the state security apparatus. He works as a software developer and rarely leaves his home. He follows the news and senses the arrival of the major political change.

Farah, in her thirties, is a news caster on Egyptian television. What she's given to read during the revolution minimised the magnitude of the events - and soon she starts feeling guilty.

Adel is in his forties and seems to be preoccupied with the series of arrests after 25 January 2011, when the uprising began. He interrogates many protesters and we discover that he is linked to Amr's torture a few years ago.

Amr and Farah were engaged, but they broke it off suddenly when Amr was released from prison.

The film follows the lives of the three characters entwined within the Egyptian revolution.

In his notes to the movie, El-Batout wrtes: "We need to keep in mind that The Winter of Discontent is not about the revolution itself. It is a film about three people who lived through the historic and unforgettable 18 days of the revolution."

El-Batout further explains that political events are central to the film's characters, who are "guided by the political situation." However, the political situation is presented from the perspective of the protagonists themselves, while the year 2009 is also an important political moment presented in the movie.

The idea for the ​​film developed amid overwhelming political changes that have occurred since 25 January 2011, while the crew remains cohesive. El-Batout adds that it was necessary to strike a balance between these events and the film: "One always seeks shelter in one’s mind."

Given the political circumstances, the film is not limited to the question of the revolution, but it also adds other angles to the story. Eventually the film "gives hope to the viewer," as Amr Waked puts it.

In order to be better understood El-Batout always searches for reflection of personal experience in topics raised in his movies. This personal side is particularly obvious in Winter of Discontent.

Winter of Discontent is the first feature film Amr Waked has produced, together with Salah El-Hanafy's own company, ZAD Communications & Productions, LLC, in affiliation with AROMA and an independent film production company, Ein Shams Films. Winter of Discontent is a relatively big-budget movie of LE5 million ($800,000). The commercial screening of the Winter of Discontent is planned for January 2013.

The three previous films by El-Batout - Ithaki (2005), Ain-Shams (2009) and Hawi (2010), competed in international festivals and the first two were awarded numerous prizes.

Screening schedule for 'Winter of Discontent' at 69th Venice Film Festival:

Friday, 31 August, 10pm
Cinema hall: Sala Darsena

Saturday, 1 September, 11:15am
Cinema hall: Sala Grande

Sunday, 2 September, 13:15pm
Cinema hall: Palabiennale

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