Egypt's arts and culture: The best of January 2014

Ahram Online, Thursday 30 Jan 2014

Ahram Online highlights artistic achievements, important cultural events and new initiatives in January 2014

January 2014

Egyptian-American production The Square becomes first Egyptian documentary nominated for Oscars

On 16 January, the Academy Awards announced its final list of nominees for the 2014 Oscars, scheduled to air live on 2 March with Egyptian-American production The Square on its list for 'Best Documentary Film'. The Square marks Egypt's first time on the 'Best Documentary' list and in the Oscars as a whole, with the exception of Omar El-Sherif's 'Best Supporting Actor' nomination in 1962 for his role in the Hollywood production Lawrence of Arabia.

The film is directed by Jehane Noujaim, starring Khaled Abdalla, Magdy Ashour, Aida El-Kashef, Ramy Essam, Ahmed Hassan and Ragia Omran. A few days following the Academy nomination, Jehane Noujaim was awarded the Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America (DGA). The film also won the People's Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013, and the Audience Award at Sundance 2013.

Read our review of The Square here

The Square
Photo: Still from The Square featuring actor Khaled Abdalla (L)

2B Continued festival filled the Falaki Theatre stage with dance and theatre performances

Between 16 and 19 January, Egypt's theatre troupes transformed downtown Cairo's Falaki theatre into a gleaming terrain for powerful shows. Four performances -- two dance pieces and two plays -- ran on each day: A Room Filled with Smoke, What’s Left…, Mirror and Triangles Are My Favourite Shape tackled themes ranging from suicide to oppressive gender roles to power dynamics to the dehumanised state of contemporary society.

2B Continued, the brainchild of Studio Emad Eddin’s director of workshops and residencies Nevine El-Ibiary, acts as an incubator for emerging artists. Now in its fifth year, the festival continues to challenge and support up and coming performance companies. Check our review of the event here.

The audience was asked to vote after the four shows on each night for best sound, performance, set and costume, and lighting. The results were announced on 30 January by Studio Emad Eddin.

2B Continued
From 2B continued festival (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)

Opening of Adam Henein Museum

On 18 January Adam Henein Museum opened in Cairo's Al-Harraniya district. The museum is a priceless gift from the artist himself to the country. It includes the largest, and ever-growing, collection of Henein’s sculptures as well as featuring some of his paintings.

Sculpture pioneer Adam Henein, who emerged in the 1950s to influence numerous younger Egyptian artists as well as international audiences, has generated a prolific oeuvre which has left an indelible mark on Egypt's cultural landscape.

Read more about the museum here.

Adam Henein
Adam Henien and his depiction of Um Kulthoum

Release of Amr Salama's La Moakhza in Egyptian cinemas

Released in cinemas this month, Amr Salama's highly anticipated La Moakhza (Excuse My French), uses humour to tackle sectarianism and the constantly deteriorating public education system in Egypt. The film has been challenged by the censorship board for the past three years until it was finally approved only recently.

The plot follows 10-year-old Hany, who lives a quiet life, goes to a private school, lives in a gated community and likes going to church. When his father suddenly dies and leaves his mother to deal with his debt, Hany volunteers to attend a public school to alleviate his mother's burden. There, he accidentally ends up having to pretend to be a Muslim. The film then reveals Hany's struggles to fit into the public school, where Salama presents us with an array of hilarious and well-rounded characters which make this film not only enjoyable, but also emotionally touching, inviting audiences to reconsider givens on sectarian tensions in Egyptian society.

La Moakhza
Still from Amr Salama's 'La Moakhza'

Khaled El-Khamissi's bestselling Egyptian novel Taxi adapted for Cairo stage

Between 22 and 29 January, the bilingual theatre company The Thousand Tongues presented its first production, an adaptation of Khaled El-Khamissi's novel Taxi, at Vent in downtown Cairo. Co-directed by American Brian Farish and Egyptian Rewan El-Ghaba, the performance presents a selection of El-Khamissi's 58 conversations with taxi drivers in an entirely new form.

The novel's third person narrative is transformed to the first person with the voice given to one of the characters in the skit. While juggling between the stories, each of the six actors shifts characters from one skit to another while the audience moves around Vent, a non-traditional culture space, functioning as both a pub and a restaurant while also offering film screenings, live music and theatre.

Following the success and high audience interest in the theatrical adaptation of Khaled El-Khamissi's 'Taxi', theatre makers The Thousand Tongues announce two more shows, 5 and 9 February

Check our updates as The Thousand Tongues plan to perform Taxi in other venues in Cairo and around the country. Read our review of the play and video here.

Taxi performance (Photo: Courtesy of 'The Thousand Tongues)

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