Revolution in the short term
The Kam Festival for short films presented a mixed view of the January events, writes Osama Kamal
Of the 32 films that applied for entry to the Kam Festival, 31 were admitted into the competition. That shows how inclusive the festival was. True to its name, which means "how much?" in Arabic, the festival did not have a viewing panel in the usual sense of the word. The organisers excluded only one film, and that was because its topic had nothing to do with the 25 January Revolution, the main theme of the event.
In a break with the time-honoured tradition of film festivals, this was not a high-brow event. If you had shot a film about the revolution, even on a mobile phone, you were in. The organisers did not look at your track record or your cinematic expertise. Anyone who brought a camera to the protests had a shot at screening their film. The result was interesting, for there were the most amateurish of films shown side by side with some true masterpieces of cinematography.
As Ali Abu Shadi, film critic and president of the festival, said on the opening night, the organisers were interested in capturing the spirit of the Egyptian revolution as seen at first-hand by the participants. "The beginnings are usually confused and incomplete," Shadi said. "But to record the moment is essential, especially when it comes to something as big as the 25 January Revolution which turned our lives around."
The filmmaker and secretary-general of the festival Alaa Nasr said that the aim of the Kam festival was to give all artists who were present during the revolution a chance to show their work, irrespective of technique and tools. Kam, of course, is also a loose pun on Cannes, the internationally-renowned film festival. Does Kam have any further ambitions? According to Nasr, the organisers aspire to making Kan a major event, at least in the local scene. Instead of once a year, as most festivals tend to be, Kam will be held twice each year, in winter and in summer. The next festival will be called "The Nile".
The screening was strictly democratic, as well as exhausting. All the films were screened on one day, without a break in the middle. It was hard to watch, but still the brilliant films shone through, and one could tell from the audience reaction which films were most likely to win. At the end the judging panel, consisting of Marianne Khuri, Yousri Nasrallah and Amr Waked, selected six films for awards and special mention, most of which had already won clear approval in the screening room.
The festival also honoured the names of the ten demonstrators who lost their lives during the confrontations in Tahrir Square.
The first prize went to Departure Departure by Mona Iraqi. The film recorded real-life scenes shot by the director after she arrived at Cairo Airport from Sudan just after the beginning of the revolution up until Departure Friday, the day on which Mubarak did not leave -- he left office a week later.
The scenes in Iraqi's film show the divergent opinions of Egyptians about the revolution, contrasting the magical spirit in Tahrir Square with the pro-Mubarak action in Mostafa Mahmoud Square. The film recorded the reactions of average citizens, revolutionaries, politicians, and artists to the way the official Egyptian media covered the revolution. Iraqi said that she wanted the film, which was produced by the satellite television channel Al-Hayat, to expose the deceit of the official media. Last year Iraqi won a special mention award at the Ismailia International Festival for her documentary film Dish for Wolves.
Coming in second place was A Story of a Revolution by Nagi Ismail, which featured a poetry reading by Ahmad Haddad, grandson of the two great poets Salah Jahin and Fouad Haddad. The film documented life and events in Tahrir Square with a special emphasis on the moments of contrasting emotions, the hope and the despair, the exhaustion and the euphoria. Ismail also recorded the reaction of some of Egypt's best loved artists, including Mahmoud Hmeida, Amr Waked, Basma and Asser Yassin.
The third prize went to Curfew by Ahmad El-Tanbouli, who recorded a conversation taking place on top of a rooftop between a State Security officer and one of the thugs the police formerly hired to beat up opponents of the regime. At one point the thug changes sides, turning against the police officer and refusing to cooperate.
Filmmakers El-Zamkhashri Abdallah, Shadi El-Anani and Mahmoud El-Ghoneimi all received Certificates of Merit for their contributions. Abdallah entered two films: I Sacrifice My Blood for My Country and One Hand. Both films were produced in a film workshop he attended at the Rod Al-Farag Cultural Palace.
The first film, I Sacrifice My Blood for My Country, centred on a group of artists who painted revolutionary images in one corner of Tahrir Square. They had met on Facebook and decided to work together in the square. Abdallah's second film, One Hand, addressed sectarian strife and the possible involvement of the police in fomenting it.
Shadi El-Anani entered two films: Excuse Me, It's Yoga and Once Upon a Time. The films take place before the January Revolution, but describe the mood that led to its outbreak. In Excuse Me, It's Yoga, Anani documents the sterile, stagnant mood that had taken hold of the country before the revolution.
Mahmoud El-Ghoneimi's film, Aswan: A Song of Revolution and Freedom documented the protests in Aswan during the revolution.
Beginnings are all hard, and this festival's beginning was especially so. Two panels for discussions were listed for the event, one of which started two hours late while the second failed to start at all. However, this was a small price to pay for an exceptionally energetic event that has brought along quantity -- just as promised -- as well as a lot of quality and bundles of determination.