Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Dry Hot Shorts

Soha Hesham attended the short film screenings at Zawya Art House

Dry Hot Summers
Dry Hot Summers
Al-Ahram Weekly

Four acclaimed Arab short films – Ave Maria (Palestine), Ghasra (Tunisia), Waves 98 (Lebanon) and Dry Hot Summers (Egypt) – made for a powerful programme this week at the Zawya Art House. In Basil Khalil’s 14 min Ave Maria, a Jewish family travelling home for the Sabbath crash their car into the statue of Virgin Mary outside a convent where the nuns are eating olives and sipping water in absolute silence, failing to react to the noise except for one young nun who steps out to find a man, his wife and his elderly mother in a wheel chair, and the Virgin with a broken neck. The nuns have taken a vow of silence, while now that the Sabbath has arrived the family cannot operate machinery – and the resulting interactions prove hilarious, ending with the Jewish family driving home in a Palestinian car with a huge neon icon of the Virgin. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or as Best Short Film at 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Muhr Award for Best Short Film at the Dubai International Film Festival 2015, the Jury Award at the 2016 Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival 2016 and the 2016 Best Short Film award at the US Academy Awards.

Jamil Najjar’s 26 min Gharsa, which premiered at the 2016 Dubai International Film Festival, features  Lotfi Abdelli as Gharsa, a taxi driver who, having driven out of the city, stops to relieve himself by a tree and is repeatedly interrupted. In the process he faces the hysterical social-political challenges of post-revolution Tunisia. He meets a political candidate with his entourage campaigning for votes, a group of Ultras or extreme football fans, a group of Islamic extremists and, finally, the police. By the time the police arrives, however, the taxi driver is hiding behind a tree wearing a jilbab with beer bottles scattered underneath him and a rifle hanging above his head. When he is arrested, Gharsa has still not managed to relieve himself – and he ends up doing so in the police car.

The lead in Ely Dagher’s 2015 Palme d’Or winner Waves 98, Omar, is a teenage writer discovering his own life through Beirut’s tall buildings from his rooftop in a city split in two where everything is stuck in a loop and everybody is suffering from boredom with an endless cycle of the same news. The mostly animated 14 min film features a golden elephant at the city centre which purports to attract the young  to a new city full of hope and free of violence, boredom and racism. However, Omar’s imagination seems to be repeating and re-creating the past. The film also won the Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Golden Bayard at the Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Short Film at Sundance Film Festival and the Muhr Award at Dubai International Film Festival.

In Sherif Al-Bendary’s 30 min Dry Hot Summers, Shawki (Mohamed Farid), a bald man in his sixties apparently with cancer, arranges for a taxi to take him to an appointment with a foreign consultant, but the taxi driver decides to take along two girls: Doaa (Nahed Al-Sebai), whose wedding turns out to be later that day, and her friend. As they exit the taxi the two girls accidentally pick up Shawki’s bag, which contains his X-rays and test results, and so he must search for them all across Downtown – finally ending up in the bridegroom’s place in Doaa’s wedding picture: the bridegroom is not yet available to be photographed, and the photographer says he needs a figure next to her, which he can later replace with her husband’s picture in Photoshop. In the process Shawki is strangely moved, knowing his life is about to end while Doaa’s is beginning. Shawki is seen at the clinic where the foreign consultant tells his doctor he does not understand how is still alive and that it is pointless to keep treating him. But years later – while Doaa appears happily married with her wedding picture showing her and her husband – Shawki is seen alive and well at his home, his hair grown back, eating the same ice cream that Doaa gave him the day they met, with the unaltered wedding picture hanging behind him. The film was part of the 2016 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival Official Selection. 

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