Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Staying alive

As D-CAF kicks back, Soha Hesham attends one of the highlight screenings

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The fourth round of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF, 19 March-9 April) opened with A (Micro) History of World Economics, Danced. Choreographed by Pascal Ramber and held at the AUC Greek Campus, the performance consists of physical illustrations of personal experience by 50 participants chosen at random from the city, whose everyday movements have been transformed into dance.

This year the venues include such innovative places as the Sednaoui Department store in Al-Attaba, the pedestrian-only area outside the Egyptian Stock Exchange (the latter for the Urban Visions programme) and the Sherazade Nightclub on Alfi Bey Street.

Performances include 8% (Egypt), Egyptian electro-folk music by Oka, Ortega and Shehta Karika and DJ Shaawaza, as well as Goldierocks (UK) at the Greek Campus. The Greek Campus will also host Women On Walls: Street Art Workshop Unchained (3-7 April), a workshop that gathers together graffiti and street artists from the Middle East and Sweden, giving them the use of a wall on Youssef Al-Guindi Street.

Theatre performances and lectures are taking place at the Goethe Institute on Al-Bustan Street, exhibitions at the Old French Consulate and contemporary dance at the Rawabet Theatre.

At the Zawya Cinema, also in downtown Cairo, the Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s Still Life, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2006, lived up to D-CAF’s high standards.

The film is the pensive, slow take on political and social issues in China, telling two parallel stories of a man and a woman searching for their lost partners. In the course of the two journeys, the 111-minute film depicts such phenomena as the effects of the capitalist transformation on the country and the evacuation that the building of the Three Gorges Hydro-electric Dam necessitates. It benefits from beautiful cinematography by Nelson Yu Lik-wai (who received the best cinematography award from Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 2008).  

The protagonist, Sanming Han (Sanming) enters the upstream city of Fengjie after a long journey. Asking a motorcyclist for a ride, he arrives at a river bank. While the driver is explaining to him how the entire neighborhood has been flooded, Sanming is preoccupied with finding his ex-wife, who left him 16 years ago, running away with their daughter. Eventually he locates her brother, who directs him to a house downriver...

In a chapter entitled “Cigarettes”, Sanming has rented a small room in an old building and befriended a young man who helped him to find a job on an old building demolition team. Following two more chapters, “Liquor” and “Tea”, the film shifts to Shen Hong (Tao Zhao), a woman searching for the husband who left her two years earlier. She is seen arriving in Fengjie, also after a long journey. The two stories never meet.

The film is a strong metaphor for life: the callous city moving inexorably towards a future, shedding its architecture, while human beings cling to the past. It ends with no resolutions whatsoever with a man walking a tightrope between two buildings that await their demise.

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