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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

France, an old friend of the Hakawy Int'l Arts Festival for Children

The French presence during the Hakawy Festival was expressed through a play by H2ommes and a film, Yellowbird, a new component of the festival

Ossama Lotfy Fateem , Sunday 25 Mar 2018
H2ommes from France
H2ommes (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The 8th Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children, which took place between 8 and 13 Marchm would not be complete without the French presence.

This year French art was represented with two components: the performance “H2ommes” telling the story of a drop of water, and the movie Yellowbird (Gus, Petit oiseau, Grand voyage), a 2014 animated movie. The film was a new component of the festival which usually focuses around theatre plays, storytelling and workshops.

France is among guests of the Hakawy Festival since the initiative’s beginnings.

In 2012, French artists from Le Vélo Théâtre brought to Egyptian children a play titled “y’a Lapin Dans la Lune.” This was followed by the French percussion artists La Compagnie Sultan Bacchus in 2013, which presented Le Petit Vampire (2014), then Fred Teppe’s Tuiles (2015) and the return of Le Vélo Théâtre (2016) with a performance titled "Enveloppes et déballages."

H2ommes from France
H2ommes (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Undeniably, H2ommes was among this Hakawy’s highlights, on the scale of this year as well as all editions of this fascinating festival.

In their visually captivating production, H2ommes let the story envelope the stage. The creators brought together the projections, shadows, an actor, a musician and props. The dreamy reality build throughout the show was born from the braiding of theatre with live music, where the singing and sound effects are all produced by one man seated on stage.

The musician is emotionally involved in the performance, reacts to events happening two steps from his instruments, including pots and pans alongside all possible tools that make sounds.

For Egyptian children – and adults alike – such a show is rarely, if at all, shown on local stages. As such it was a lovely change and refreshing for audiences raised on more traditional formats that dominate Egyptian performances.

Gus petit oiseau, grand voyage
Gus petit oiseau, grand voyage

France’s uniqueness was also expressed though the film, the Yellowbird, an animated movie whose story revolves around immigration.

Taking place in a French forest, the story revolves around an egg that hatches in a foreign environment among rabbits and a lady bug. The yellow bird eventually realises he is not a rabbit. By flying he can discover the world.

On a parallel line, a small family of birds is preparing to immigrate to Africa before winter hits the region and they die of cold. The head of the family has problems understanding the “steel birds” — in other words, airplanes. They lay no eggs and they come from nowhere, don’t live in families, and do not have a special purpose in flying over the forest.

In the film, immigration can be looked upon from two different angles. Northern immigration towards the south where there is prosperity and beautiful weather versus the cold that might lead to death; in other words, encouraging, in a subtle way, a colonial mindset.

On the other hand, introducing immigration as a natural activity that occurs even to birds brings it closer to the target audience, the children.

The characters in the film are drawn carefully. There are no evil characters. The charming innocent love story that occurs between the daughter bird and the yellow bird draws smiles and brings joy to the audience. And in spite of the minor struggle for power regarding who leads the family, the second in command in the traveling family accepts with difficulty the yellow bird's leadership and does not sabotage his leadership but eventually recognises the wisdom of the daring decision to take a plane to travel to Africa.

As is usual in French culture or the West in general, the concept of Africa is mentioned as a whole, or as one place, versus Europe where each region is mentioned. France, Spain and London are clearly discussed in the film. The term “Afrique Noire” or Black Africa is not mentioned in the film, but insinuated clearly.

H2ommes from France
H2ommes (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Additional reporting: Ati Metwaly

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