Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Light at the end of the alley

Soha Hesham samples CIFF’s fare

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In spite of all the political conflict and the harsh circumstances in Egypt at present, the Cairo International Film Festival managed to carry out the activities of its 35th round. Several films are worthy of note.

The 2011 Greek production Tungsten deals with the life of six people in the course of one day, showing the various intersections of these lives in a rough picture with a subtle blue cast for almost the entire 100 minutes of the film — which explains the title of the film. It makes reference to the type of photographic film balanced for tungsten light — used outdoors, it looks much cooler than reality.

Working within the confines of Athens, director Giorgos Georgopoulos captures the worries of two teenage boys uselessly touring the streets all day long fighting with each other and smoking, a ticket inspector who steals money from one of the two teenage boys, a young man trapped in an elevator during one of the city’s common blackouts due to the electricity company strikes and experiencing a range of feelings from anger to the relief enabling him to sit, smoke and even pee.

There is also a couple facing separation due to the man’s extreme violence against his girlfriend who stays at one of her friends’. In spite of his many attempts to see her, after listening to him she ends up walking away and disappearing into the city’s shoddy peripheries as the blackout starts: a metaphoric scene in which the heroes are in the corner of a dark alley with a huge light at the end of that alley in the background.

The film employs the idea of light versus darkness beautifully, exploiting the contrast to make the blackout ending the day of its six people around the city all the more effective. It won the best director award at the Cyprus International Film Festival and the special jury prize at the Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival.

***

The next film to be screened in the same hall had been replaced with the Russian film Bedouin which was interesting enough — except that it turned out there were no subtitles. As we all began filing out of the theatre, one woman looked at me in surprise, saying she had heard that it was a must-see!

Instead I watched the Chinese film Full Circle, directed by Zhang Yang, about a group of elderly people at a nursing home. Yang, born in 1967 and raised in Beijing, is one of the best respected filmmakers and screenwriters in China. He graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in 1992, and Shower (1999) was one of his highly praised features, so was Sunflower (2005), Quitting (2001) and Getting Home (2007) and many more; he also featured as an actor in the film Spring Subway (2002), a famous romantic film by Zhang Yibai.

Eloquently enough the film starts with an old man packing his clothes, having been given his wife’s will by her son to whom she leaves the house, granting him an amount of money. When he arrives at the nursing home he meets an old friend named Old Ge and that he had bladder cancer; and his only wish is to enter a reality TV contest on Japanese television that can reunite him with his daughter whom he hasn’t seen for seven years. He persuades the whole group to go with him. Yang’s characters, in their seventies and eighties, rehearse their dream show at the nursing home, but the nurse refuses to take responsibility for giving them permission to travel and decides to meet with their children to obtain permission from them.

When the children refuse to give permission, they decide to rent a bus and make plans to travel anyway. The group manage to get on the bus with the help Old Zhou and another man who initiated a pretend fight to distract the supervisors while they made their escape. The group embarks on their road trip feeling the satisfaction of freedom and seeing the cows and horses run side by side with their bus; soon enough the nurse, one grandson and one son find them at last and decide to go with them to the show.

The film is touching in every detail; the group of old men share their sufferings and ways of thinking; an eloquent statement, the film has its moments of optimism and depression as well. In many ways it is an account of the relationship between father and son and later also with a grandson who wants to use his grandfather’s money at the beginning but by the end has arrived at a state of genuine love.

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