Revolutions from around the world at Darb 1718 film festival

Menna Taher, Sunday 29 May 2011

The World Revolution film festival, held between 23 May and 1 June, is organised by Darb 1718 and screens films that depict revolutions from around the world

Capitaes de Abril

The World Revolution festival at Darb 1718 shines a spotlight on various revolutions throughout the world in their historical context; such as the Algerian resistance against the French occupation, the coup d'etat in Portugal in 1974, the revolution in Romania, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Spanish civil war.

The festival kicked off with the Battle of Algiers (1966), one of the greatest films in the world of cinema, nominated for three Oscars and winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The Battle of Algiers is an account of the French colonization of Algeria, the resistance movement and the popular revolt that later liberated Algeria.

The film captures the raw, bloody side of war and the oppression with only the minimum of gunfire scenes.

The deep prejudices of the French are captured perfectly in the film, which shows the restrictions that were enforced on the Algerians, whether at checkpoints or in the general attitude of the French people.

The film opens with a horrendous torture scene resulting in a mass protest by the people of Algiers.

Some of the most potent scenes are those of the three Algerian women who dress up as Frenchwomen, and plant bombs in restaurants and bars patronised by the French.

The uprising of the jubilant crowds is both chilling and powerful, giving the film a triumphant ending without any over-the-top glorification.

Maria de Medeiros’ debut film Capitaes de Abril (2000), also screened during the festival, failed to capture what the Battle of Algiers mastered, and one can view these two films as stark contrasts.

While in the Battle of Algiers the street scenes are portrayed so realistically that the opening note is the only indication that no real-life footage was used, in Capitaes de April the scenes are very organised, so that one can sense these are not real but only ineffective recreations made in a studio.

Capitates de April, set in Portugal in 1974 governed by an autocracy and with colonies in various African countries, follows the low-ranking military officers (MFA), who started a coup to free the people from the Salazar dictatorship.

Capitates de April does not delve into the complexities of the characters, but instead serves as a tool to glorify the coup d’etat, giving it a Hollywood ending.

Even if the coup freed the nation and ended its colonialism in African nations, the film gave too much attention to a fairytale ending and the slogans calling for freedom and liberation.

There were some futile attempts to add some depth to the characters, when Salgueiro Maia, the officer who led the coup, returns from war and is arguing with his wife as she accuses him of killing people in Africa, he helplessly tells her he was just following orders.

However, the fierce interrogation of a student and the gripping black-and-white opening scenes of corpses saved this film from being a complete disappointment.

Comandante (2003), a long interview with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, directed by Oliver Stone, was another flop.

The interview merely served as propaganda for Castro as he bragged about the changes that had taken place in Cuba and how people’s living standards had been raised, with the population becoming better educated and prostitution reduced.

The festival will continue until 1 June and the remaining films include:

29 May - The paper will be blue (2006), Romania at 7.30 pm
30 May - Persepolis (2007), France, United States at 7.30 pm
31 May - Michael Collins (1996), England, Ireland, United States at 7.30 pm
1 June - Z (1969), France, Algeria at 7.30 pm

Each screening will be accompanied with a document stating the country's historical backdrop and revolutionary phase, and its context in the film's plot.

English subtitles are provided.

Darb 1718 is located in Kasr El Sham3 Street, Old Cairo (behind the Hanging Church and Amr Mosque)

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