Sunday,18 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)
Sunday,18 February, 2018
Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Almost human

Azza Shalabi tells Soha Hesham about the wonders of GSM

Al-Ahram Weekly

The second round of the Cinemobile Film Festival — headed by Hussein Al-Qalla — that concluded its activities and announced the awards in a closing ceremony on 8 October. A forum for young filmmakers to develop their work using mobiles, the festival is organised by Al-Arabia Cinema Production and Distribution Company headed by actress and producer Issad Younis in collaboration with Qualcomm. It offers a new platform for young talents making their way in cinema.

This year the film awarded Best Film, Insan (Human), was discovered to be a copy of an Asian film and a day after the announcement of the awards, the jury of the festival along with the artistic director Amir Ramses decided to withhold the prize. The jury, headed by director Magdi Ahmed Ali, was made up of cinematographer Mohsen Ahmed, head of the cultural activities department at the CFCC Latifa Fahmi, actress Boushra, actor Fathi Abdel-Wahab (who missed the closing ceremony) and screenwriter Azza Shalabi.

Shalabi has written the films Asrar Al-Banat (Girls’ Talk), directed by Magdi Ahmed Ali in 2001 and Mafish Gher Keda (That’s the Way it is) by Khaled Al-Haggar in 2006 as well as three TV series: Qanoun Al-Maraghi (Al-Maraghi’s Law) in 2009, Kalam Neswan (Women’s Talk) in 2009 and Napoleon wel Mahrousa (Napoleon and Egypt) in 2012.

“Being part of the Cinemobile Festival jury was very significant for me. I have passion for following the new generation with their talent and ideas, which especially after the revolution — even with all its obstacles — succeeded in producing a new kind of art shattering all the monotony. This is very obvious in the field of music, less so in cinema but still. So I really wanted to see.”

There are two main aspects of interest. “First, we now have a new medium in the mobile phone which can be used to record video, and phone manufacturers are taking this into consideration while developing new generations of mobile phones with specialised features enabling high resolution and other technical features. Starting with the revolution, everyday people with no connection to the film industry have been recording important events and influencing public opinion...”

Shalabi went on, “My main concern since the revolution was to monitor and trace the new generation and the changes that occurred to their way of thinking and their new approaches and their new way of seeing art and society. The second aspect lies in the experience itself, exhibited in long discussions about the techniques of recording. One of these discussions was with cinematographer and jury member Mohsen Ahmed who of course has a lot of experience with such techniques. This gave him a special edge over the rest of us, because one of the important aspects of the festival lies in the core of his profession; he can see whether or not the mobile phone camera has achieved its maximum.”

Two of the most important rules of the festival was that the participating films cannot be more than 10 minutes long and they cannot be recorded with anything other than a mobile phone, Shalabi explained. “The edge of the Cinemobile Festival participating films is recording from certain angles or places that only the mobile camera can reach; otherwise it would be as good as any other camera, and then you lose the whole concept behind the festival. Ahmed, for example was overwhelmed with Qifl wi Ganzir (A Padlock and a Shackle) by Mohamed Karara, which won the Best Cinematography and Best Documentary Film awards, and I was astounded by the fact that such an experienced cinematographer should be so impressed with Karara. When we suggested that Karara should work with him, he insisted Karara was more than ready to start his own career.”

About the recent state of cinema, Shalabi explained, “I regard this festival as an opportunity for the young generation to examine their talents. It opens up a new horizon for them, especially with the dreadful state of Egyptian cinema nowadays and the huge obstacles facing this industry. I was astonished enough to closely observe this young generation and their different way of thinking and even their way of using this new media in transferring their point of view, their talent and how creative they can be with such simple resources and ideas, though my expectations were ultimately much higher than the films presented in the festival. Yet taking into consideration that these are debut films with new media and limited timing on a low budget, it’s still impressive.”

There were films Shalabi liked unequivocally. One was the winning documentary Qifl wi Ganzir; it had a meditative appeal that made it different from any other film. Another was the Special Jury Award winner, Mogarrad (Exposed), by Mohamed Al-Dabah.

Shalabi continued, “The experience of participating in the jury was very useful for me, and on the other hand I was really happy with the artistic management of the festival. They don’t just offer the award material appreciation but they also follow up the artist’s development, so that for example when you take an award you can use it to develop an upcoming project. Within the framework of the festival there are many workshops to support these talents, also linked to awards. So it won’t just be about distributing awards.”

The festival received 300 films. “The management filtered them as they are a very large number, so they begin by excluding films that do not follow the conditions of the festival like exceeding the set time of films or recording with something other than a mobile camera, so at the end 18 short feature films and four documentary films were sent to the jury and luckily enough one of the documentary films was applauded by all the members of the jury committee. As for the best short feature film that won at first, Insan, I wasn’t happy with it at all, but the rest of the jury committee saw potential in it. I liked the film Mogarrad that received the Special Jury Award more than Insan.’

The issue with Insan, directed by Islam Belal, was somewhat shameful, however. “The film Insan was discovered to be totally stolen, a re-make of a film originally produced in Asia. Unfortunately that is a terrible way to start your career — with such an incident and attitude by making such a huge slip that will surely affect him later. When that was discovered the award was withdrawn, but the best actress award for the same film was kept as it is because the actress was really talented and it wasn’t her fault. The award money was divided between Mogarrad and Qifl wi Ganzir,” Shalabi explained.

The Public Voting Award went to Portrait by Amr Moussa.

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