Panorama out of Cairo: A dream in fulfilment

Nahed Nasr, Wednesday 2 Dec 2015

With Alexandria, Tanta and Minya joining Panorama's Cairo screenings, Ahram Online looks into background stories and the effect of Panorama in these cities

Cinema Rivoli, Tanta
Cinema Rivoli in Tanta

The most important novelty in the 8th edition of Panorama of the European – running between 25 November and 5 December – is its expansion to screen films in some areas out of Cairo for the first time.

Cinemas in three governorates, Alexandria, Tanta and Minya in Upper Egypt, screened a selected dozen of the Panorama films.

This step is achieved through young people in those three governorates, who are already active in promoting art and culture initiatives in their cities.

Minya, the Bride of Upper Egypt

In Minya, three of the Panorama films are screened in Cinema Cityscape; On the Bride’s Side, Who Am I – No System is Safe, and Underdog.

A group of eight young people are behind the scenes of hosting Panorama’s films there. They established a group by the name of Alwanat (Different Colours) one year ago, aiming to organise several artistic events to integrate art into their community, especially through cinema.

According to Marco Adel, one of the founders, the group wants "people to see other realities and other methods of expression, so we started with several street art events, and also a few film screenings. But the real big step was to cooperate with Zawya and screen some of the Panorama films here.”

Adel emphasised that the Panorama marks a beginning for future cooperation with Zawya.

“We are planning to screen all Zawya films here so people get back in touch with cinema, and also watch different kinds of films than the commercial ones,” he said.

Micheal Yousef, a filmmaker from Minya who lives in Cairo and has played a main role in coordination between Zawya and Alwanat, says the audience reacted positively to the film list.

“I was there in Minya for the opening, and it was really amazing to see the way people received the first film (On the Bride’s Side). Though it was a kind of documentary, people had very interesting feedback in the seminar that followed the screening,” he said.

Rivoli, Tanta
Cinema Rivoli in Tanta

Yousef was also the one who selected the three films from Panorama’s list, and he has his reasons.

“In addition to Arabic subtitles, I wanted the three films to represent different types of filmmaking, so people get to know and taste something different or new to them,” he added.

The other two films are Who Am I – No System is Safe, a fiction thriller, and Underdog, a drama.

Encouraging people in Minya to watch movies and get connected to art is not the only dream for the young and enthusiastic group that is attracting new volunteers, even after the event.

“We are planning to produce our own films as well. A few months ago we organised a film competition here and many young filmmakers from Minya and other governorates, and also from Jordan, took part. We want young people to express themselves through art, to make their own films and we are walking the walk to reach this,” said Adel.

He only wished the Panorama provided the Minya screenings with more guests to discuss the films with the audience. Other than that, he assures Ahram Online that the event was very fruitful and is just a start for more to come.

Tanta in the Nile's Delta

Tanta has another interesting story, where its own group of young people established The Association of Cinema and Literature Lovers Group two years ago.

The initiative focused on organising several cinema and book club events in Tanta’s cultural centres.

One year ago, they stared to screen Zawya’s films in a hall in Rivoli Cinema, the oldest in Tanta, on a regular basis with one or two films every month.

According to Ahmed Kastawy, a mass communications student and one of the group founders, they used to screen the films and invite filmmakers for a talk with the audience.

Their picks from panorama’s list were Mustang, My Mother, and The Narrow Frame of Midnight.

“For the Panorama we invited one filmmaker to the last screening and had an open discussion following each screening,” Kastawy said.

The feedback of the audience was promising, especially with Mustang, since its story touches on many local social realities.

The Panorama experience allowed the group to screen foreign films for the first time.

Amir, Alex
Cinema Amir in Alexandria

“We used to screen Egyptian short films, or those films we know they will never show up in our cinemas” he said, pointing to how the cinemas in Tanta screen very few films comparing to Cairo, and they are all commercial.

“We worried that our film list does not have the support of the audience, but on the contrary, people enjoyed every film, and they spread the word so that more audiences came to the next screening,” Kastawy said.

Although promotion for the event was scarce, with the use of Facebook posts and some street posters, up to 66 people showed up to the hall.

“This is a success,” Kastawy said, adding that the other halls in the cinema where commercial films were to be screened did not attract their usual audience on the Panorama nights.

“All the people came to us, it means they welcomed the different and the new, and that they really need it,” he said.

One of the aims of The Association of Cinema and Literature Lovers Group is to help young filmmakers in Tanta find their way to cinema production.

“People watch films that we are screening now and before the Panorama, and they start asking us about filmmaking workshops. So there is a growing interest day after day,” he added.

The Mediterranean Pearl

In downtown Alexandria, one of Cinema Amir’s halls is now screening Zawya's programme. It is referred to as Zawya Alexandria.

Five young people from two prominent Alexandrian production companies, Rufy’s and Fig Leaf Studios, are behind this venture.

“We recently started screening Zawya films every Saturday night in Amir Cinema downtown,” says Ahmed Ragab, a Pharmacy student, filmmaker and one of Zawya Alexandria’s organisers.

Their eclectic selection of films from Panorama was Mustang, Tale of Tales, The Narrow Frame of Midnight, The Lesson, and The Lobster.

“We want to break away from the Egyptian film market that is limited to what is profitable. We tried to bring different kinds of films, and our selection is very balanced,” says Ragab.

“The opening film attracted 178 people, while the other screenings had an average of 75 to 105 people. This is a very good turnout that quite surprised us,” he added.

One of their biggest dreams is to show the production of young Egyptian filmmakers in cinema halls, something they recently achieved with The Mice Room.

“Zawya Alexandria is a step towards a dream where the cinema audience falls in love with what young local filmmakers are creating, and this is not a farfetched dream” he added.

Cityscape, Minya
Cinema Cityscape in Minya

Check Panorama's programme here and Ahram Online recommendations here.

Ahram Online is the main media sponsor of The Panorama of the European Film and of Zawya

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