Arab Shorts film festival draws crowds
Menna Taher, Friday 28 Oct 2011
This year's Arab Shorts festival, held at Cairo's Goethe-Institut, features a handful of interesting contributions

The 3rd Arab Shorts festival opened on Thursday with some interesting films in a program curated by filmmakers Hala Galal and Ayman Hussein entitled, ‘Personal Freedom: Fiction within Truth.’

This year’s event drew many more viewers than previous festivals. A large crowd showed up for the opening and many were not allowed in due to space limitations.

The most interesting films to be shown at the festival were ‘Karim,’ ‘Suspended Freedom’ and ‘Payback.’

‘Karim,’ by Omar El-Shamy, is a short documentary about a young man who makes ends meet working as a parking attendant. At first, ‘Karim’ strikes one as a hurried attempt at a film, but it manages to capture the spirit of its interesting protagonist.

Karim appears uninhibited by the camera, and one doesn’t know if it’s the filmmaker’s promptings or Karim’s own extraverted character that leads him to joke – even sing – with his friend at the end. Yet the film could have explored his life in greater depth, and only portrays him in one context – a mistake that ‘Suspended Freedom’ does not make.

‘Suspended Freedom,’ by May El-Hossamy, follows a housekeeper who goes from house to house performing household chores, while talking about her personal life. The woman’s husband was imprisoned for seven years but was released during Egypt’s January revolution, when Egyptian prison inmates were released en masse.

In one poignant scene, the main character says that she longs for rest, noting that, even when undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, she still had to work in order to feed her children.

‘Payback,’ by Omar Khaled, focuses on different forms of oppression, whether in the form of beatings or sexual assault. The fact that the film’s screening coincided with news about a new case of police torture adds to its resonance. What is most haunting is not the film’s depiction of oppression, but of the psychology of the oppressor and the pleasure he derives from his oppressive acts.

In the opening scene of ‘Our Weapon,’ by Ziad Hassan, graffiti artists spray a gun on a wall to depict ‘their weapon’ and a camera to depict ‘our weapon.’ The film revolves around the graffiti scene, which suddenly bursts out. It offers an insight into the novel art form, while maintaining the graffiti artists’ anonymity.

‘Under the Iron’ had potential, but could have been much better. The film tells the story of a young boy who works as a construction worker. Though the film’s locations make the film visually interesting, it does not offer adequate insight.

‘4.02.2011’ was the most obscure film of all. Even though it is experimental in terms of image, it is bereft of any meaning, while striving mightily to have one. It narrates a man’s hardly coherent inner dialogue as he floats in a bathtub.

‘I Am Aser’ is perhaps the least interesting film, even though its premise has some potential. The film, featuring the famous actress Bushra, reflects upon the complexity of parenting but includes a hefty dose of clichés.

As a single mother, Bushra’s parenting alternates between loving and obsessively protecting her children. But the film adopts a somewhat melodramatic approach that is only enhanced by its soundtrack.

The festival will continue until Monday, 31 October.

Complete festival program:

Friday, 28 October, 6:30pm

‘Checkpoint’ by Ruben Amar (France; 2010)

‘Amal’ by Ali Benkirane (France/Morocco; 2004)

‘Short Memory’ by Marwan Khneisser (Lebanon; 2010)

‘Album’ by Shiraz Fradi (Tunisia; 2010)

‘Roos Djaj’ by Bassem Ali Jarbawi (Palestine/USA; 2009)

Friday, 28 October, 9:00pm

‘Djo00’ by Djamil Beloucif (Switzerland/Algeria; 2010)

‘El-Berrani’ by Aboubakar Hamzi (Algeria; 2010)

‘Un Aller Simple’ (‘One-Way Ticket’) by Ammar Bouras (Algeria; 2007)

‘Instants/Alger’ by Amina Djahnine (Algeria; 2008)

‘Hysteresis’ by Taher Kessi (Algeria; 2010)

Saturday, 29 October, 4:00pm

‘Tandid-Condemnation’ by Walid Mattar (Tunisia; 2010)

‘The Stadium’ by Ala Eddine Slim (Tunisia; 2010)

‘Fouska’ by Samy El-Haj (Tunisia; 2008)

‘Coma’ by Aladin Aboutaleb (Tunisia; 2010)

Saturday, 29 October, 6:30pm

‘2026’ by Maha Maamoun (Egypt; 2010)

‘Children of Fire’ by Mohamed Al-Hawajri (Palestine; 2009)

‘Paper Dress’ by Kasem Kharsa (Egypt/Jordan; 2009)

Saturday, 29 October, 9:00pm

‘Politics’ by Tom Holert (Germany; 2010)

‘F66 Ghost Ship’ by Florian Zeyfang (Germany; 2010)

Sunday, 30 October, 4:00pm

‘Land of Heroes’ by Sahim Omar Kalifa (Belgium/Iraq; 2011)

‘Heaven’s Water’ by Abdullah Boushahri (Kuwait; 2010)

‘Sabeel’ by Khalid Al-Mahmoud (UAE; 2010)

‘Spices’ by Amer Alrawas (Oman; 2011)

Sunday, 30 October, 6:30pm

‘Rice City’ by Sherif El-Azma (Egypt; 2010)

‘Tarahi II’ by Haris Epaminoda (Cyprus; 2006)

‘Giza Zoo’ by Solmaz Shahbazi (Germany/Iran; 2010)

Monday, 31 October, 6:30pm

‘As They Say’ by Hicham Ayouch (Morocco/UAE; 2011)

‘Be Quiet’ by Sameh Zoabi (Palestine; 2006)

‘The 42nd Winter’ by Ihab Tarabieh (Syria; 2009)

The Goethe-Institut

5 Bostan St, Downtown Cairo