Cairo: What was once the “most beautiful city in the world” in the early 1900s is now a busy, crowded metropolis with very little room for visions and dreams. The artists, however, are as stubborn as the city itself. They make its hardness a source of inspiration.
Cairo, like most Egyptians cities, is a city with sincere hidden beauty. However, under the tyranny of modernity, many of its attributes are disappearing on a daily basis. A joyful city despite all its sadness; stubborn and vicious, yet gentle and caring. Youthful artistic voices carry mixed emotions as they portray their city and their relation to it.
The author Youssef Rakha writes more about pain and sadness, sometimes nostalgic and sometimes bitter, but, despite everything, never rejects the city. As he puts it, “Places are like people: they cannot be evaluated with anything other than memory.”
Filmmaker Heba Yossry, brought up in a traditional family setting, confronts these falsified ideas of society by viewing them with her documentary eye (Profession: Woman) and chooses to look at the women most people would like to ignore: street prostitutes. Neither condemning nor justifying, but simply letting them speak about themselves.
In her narrative film Another Passion, she portrays her own struggle to study cinema, and the confrontations she had with her family.
TouSSy and Kaiser, although native Alexandrians, with their sensitivity to Egyptian urban sounds and images, have decided to make this their form of self expression. They use these audiovisual perceptions to reconstruct their view of the city, throwing us inside the crowd.
And with that, our city is incomparable to anywhere else in the world. Through this programme we hope to show you three of the most distinctive voices from Egypt. Along with their personal visions and stories, they all bring along a piece of the city to reconstruct it there; this time more personal, gentler, and more merciful.
Mostafa Youssef, curator
Born in Cairo, 1983. Studied Directing at the Egyptian High Institute of Cinema, Cairo.
Made several films (documentaries, short fiction films) in collaboration with SEMAT (‘with us learn & make your first film’) – an independent filmmakers’ collective in Cairo.
Literature and prose
Youssef Rakha (born in Cairo, 1976), has a first class BA Hons in English and Philosophy (Hull University, UK, 1998) and was awarded the Larkin Prize for English and the Chris Ayers Prize for Philosophy.
Since the early 1990s he has contributed many articles and translations to the Arabic press, and is presently senior writer/copy editor for the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly.
He has published a collection of short stories Dar Sharqiyat, 1999, and the travel book Beirut, shi mahal [Beirut, some place], Amkena Books, 2006.
In his works, Rakha uses a very personal voice to touch on the urban details of modern life in Egypt, showing both the charm and the viciousness of the city. This has earned him a great deal of local and international recognition: his articles and stories in various magazines and journals such as Zawaya, Amkena, and Al-Ahram Weekly are enjoyed by many regular readers and admired by a wide ranging audience.
The main difference between independent Egyptian films and the international films is that the latter emphasize an idea or a philosophy while the former are more concerned with social issues.
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Heba Yossry (born in Cairo, 1984) is a recently graduated filmmaker (High Cinema Institute) who has managed to cause quite a fuss with her first two films. Touching on rather sensitive subjects, and dealing with them with a personal and simple attitude, her films were able to win her quite a number of film awards, and wide recognition.
Her documentary, Profession: Woman (11 min., 2007) about Egyptian prostitutes is an incredibly honest film that's both agonizing and heartfelt. Yossry never aims to justify these women's actions or force the viewer to judge them; she simply shows them as they are with a touch of compassion we rarely find in the real world.
Another Passion (21 min., 2006), is a tragicomic narrative: it comprises a dialogue between mother and daughter in which the latter's dream of becoming an actress is dismissed by the former as dangerous and haram (religiously forbidden), playing out the potential conflict of art and religion until the father bursts in and puts an end to the dream.
The director was inspired to write the story from her own experience.
2C and Kaiser
sound artist and VJ
TouSSy (or Tamer Abdel Moneim Attalah, born in Alexandria, 1977) is a drummer, keyboardist and music composer interested mostly in electronic and manufactured music. His recent works focus on recycling sounds of the city, and transforming them into his own personal vision. He has worked on various soundtracks for short independent films, such as: Sicoteen 10.5mg (dir.:Mohamed Salah), The dead will not mind (dir.:Emad Mabrouk), and he collaborated with Mahmoud Refaat in making the soundtrack for the multi-award winning film Day and Night (dir.: Islam El Azzazi). He has also composed the soundtrack for a number of theatrical and modern dance plays. TouSSy has also participated in many musical workshops and collaboration productions, during which he made the Desert Bomb track on the Electro Egypt album. Kaiser (or Mohamed Fatthi, born in Alexandria, 1978) is a guerrilla filmmaker and video artist. Shifting between and combining the various roles of photography, editing, and directing, Kaiser has been able to establish a personal voice that is distinctively underground and experimental. Some of the films he has shot and edited have become hits of Egypt’s independent digital film scene; such as the film The Elevator (dir.: Hadil Nazmy). He is now the Executive Manager of the newly founded El Warsha Media Production sector (part of El Warsha, one of Egypt’s oldest independent performing arts groups). Their most recent project is UltraSounds of a City, a project based on the unnoticeable sounds and scenes of the city. This project’s key feature is the real-time sound and video mixing using multi-layer video editing software and virtual audio studio software. In this project, TouSSy is the sound artist and Kaiser the video artist; a video sample of a live concert can be found at: