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Third Jazz and Cinema Festival honours Yehia Khalil, pays tribute to Jeanne Moreau, Jean Rouch and Miles Davis

The festival was hosted by Bibliotheca Alexandrina for the first time this year, previous editions having been held at the Jesuit Center in Alexandria

Yasser Moheb, Tuesday 2 Jan 2018
Miles Davis and Jeanne Moreau
A double tribute to Miles Davis and Jeanne Moreau (Photo: Al Ahram Hebdo)

The third edition of the Jazz and Films Festival took place on 10 and 11 December, honouring Egyptian jazz musician Yehia Khalil and French actress Jeanne Moreau, along with French filmmaker Jean Rouch and American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.

The brainchild of Egyptian film critic and director Salah Hashem, this year's event was hosted by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina for the first time. The previous two editions were held at the Jesuit Center in Alexandria.

Combining music and cinema, the event is organized by Cinema Isis, an online portal created and run by Hashem, in collaboration with the French Institute in Alexandria.

The festival, which includes film screenings and discussions around jazz in cinema, aims at exploring the African aspect of the Egyptian personality through jazz music, a genre that has flourished on the hands of African-Americans.

"We always emphasize the Arab aspect of the Egyptian identity, often ignoring the African dimension of it," Salah Hashem comments. "I was interested in launching this festival for over 10 years. I believed in the importance of revealing the many facets of our country and there is nothing better than art for doing so, especially now, when we are witnessing a lot of fanaticism and violence."

The festival has screened several films, bringing to audiences different angles on jazz, a musical genre that has been on the rise since the 1950s.

Three tributes were paid to artistic icons during the course of the festival. The first two were to French actress Jeanne Moreau, who died in July 2017, and the famous African-American trumpet player Miles Davis, one of the key personalities in the history of jazz.

The festival opened with Elevator to the Gallows (1958), a crime drama directed by Louis Malle, starring Jeanne Moreau, with a film score by Miles Davis.

The film relates the tale of Julien (Maurice Ronet) who murders his employer Simon Carala (Jean Wall) with the help of Simon’s wife Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau), who has an affair with Julien. The event drives a series of unexpected and unintentional incidents.

As the plot develops, Florence finds herself walking through the streets of Paris, where she is accompanied by Miles Davis, who improvises on his trumpet -- marking an important entry of jazz music into the heart of cinematic imagination.

As we listen to the improvisation and watch the image on the screen, we are offered some touching and melancholic music from the trumpet, matching well with Louis Malle's style.

Following the screening, the audience engaged in a discussion, exchanging views and comments on the film itself, on jazz and on cinematography.

The third tribute was to the famous French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch, whose filmography was also the subject of in-depth discussions during the festival.

Coinciding with the centennial of his birth, the festival screen one of Rouch's iconic films: I, a Negro (Moi, un noir, 1958).

Renowned for his unique style, Rouch helped erase the borders between documentary cinema and fiction film through numerous documentaries on the fate of Africans.

The festival’s third edition also included a discussion titled “The origin and the rebirth of jazz music." The talk took place in the presence of Egyptian drummer and jazz musician Yehia Khalil, the festival’s guest of honour.

This article was translated from Al Ahram Hebdo (French) and edited by Ahram Online.

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