Hala Lotfy Aims To Break Film Industry 'Monopoly' In Egypt w/ Debut 'Coming Forth By Day'

by Courtney
February 20, 2013 12:03 PM
1 Comment
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Titled Coming Forth By Day from director Hala Lotfy, here's some background information courtesy of EuroMed:

The film’s first half is entirely set in the suffocating apartment of an old Egyptian man (Ahmed Lutfi), who needs the help of his wife (Salma Al-Najjar) and his daughter, Soad (Donia Maher), for even the most basic tasks, since he can’t even eat by himself or walk.

The mother also works at a hospital and has just changed her working hours and now needs to work nights, which means that during the day, she sleeps and the care for the man of the house falls entirely on Soad.

Scenes of feeding the father, taking care of his bed sores or changing his bedding are set in the penumbral apartment, which has its shutters closed. For most of the time, it’s not even clear what time of the day it is, only that all of Soad’s time is occupied by just looking after her father. The camerawork by Mahmoud Lotfy, the brother of the director, helps underline the claustrophobic nature of the women’s lives indoors.

In the film’s slightly less claustrophobic second half, Soad (and the viewer) finally gets to breathe a little bit when she decides to leave the house, though she promises her mother she’ll be back soon and will take her mobile phone with her so she can be reached in case of an emergency.

Though finally out of the house, Soad still seems unable to take control of her own life, aimlessly wandering around, taking to an ex-lover on the phone, running various errands but in no way taking life in her own hands. It is this between-the-lines irresolution and lack of options and a clear future that makes Day such a European-feeling film; it is not only a very accurate portrayal of a possible day and night of a young woman in Cairo but also a harsh, if subtle, comment on how the heavy burden of expectation sideline any sense of purpose for Egyptian women.

Described as a look at Egypt unlike any Egyptian cinema prior to it, with comparisons being made to European arthouse films, Coming Forth By Day premiered in the Forum section of the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month.

It's Hala Lotfy's feature film directorial debut, for which she won the FIPRESCI prize in Abu Dhabi, as well as the top prize at the 6th Oran Arab Film Festival. She is also a member of the newly-launched MEDIS South Mediterranean distributors network and recently spearheaded a move to form an independent filmmakers’ union in Egypt.

Lofty was recently interviewed by the Algerian news daily, Horizons. Here's a sample of the interview worth sharing:

People say that you are a socially committed, rebellious director. We also know that you literally refused that your film take part in the Cairo Film Festival. Why?

First, I would like to stress, at my modest level, that Egyptian cinema and Arab cinema in general should be auteur cinema, films with messages as opposed to commercial films. I reject and denounce the tendency of commercial and entertainment cinema that, for some years now, has taken over Egypt in imitation of Hollywood cinema.

What do you think of Algerian and North African cinema these days?

I'm no expert on the subject, but I do know that after the post-independence period, theatrical and cinematic creation leapt forward in terms of quality both on the national and international scene. These films have been very successful at certain international events. I suppose that, ideally, film professionals should be helped to perfect their know-how, different approaches should be compared, and cooperation should be boosted between creators across the North African and Arab region.

She and a group of other independent artists founded Hassala Productions, which provides equipment and fundraising advice to young filmmakers, and conducts film workshops. Lotfy and others are also forming a syndicate, which aims to break what she calls the film industry "monopoly" in Egypt.

"We are trying to do films that are revolutionary in content, take risks and are adventurous in low-budget form," she says. "This is how things will change."

She calls making Coming Forth By Day "an act of resistance, because the film scene in Egypt is so established that it makes it hard for individuals to make a name for themselves."

And further, "It's a very good example of how the country lacks democracy. If you don't have money and aren't well-connected, then you aren't allowed to express yourself. But if democracy means anything, it is that everyone is entitled to express themselves, regardless of the tools they choose to do it."

Hala Lotfy - a talent to watch.

Here'sa teaser for her feature debut, Coming Forth By Day:

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1 Comment

  • ao | February 20, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    This is a storyline that hits home for me. My own father was injured in an automobile accident when I was 11 years old. He went from a robust, athletic young man to a quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down), overnight. For the next 35 years, my mother, my siblings and myself took care of him. But this was not a sad or depressing story. I grew up in home that was full of life and fun and happiness and most of all love; much of which was generated by my father and mother whose love for one another was an inspiration. They were married for 55 years until my father's death.

    And what's this disoriented stuff when she goes out. Again, why do the main characters always have to be near basket-cases? My siblings and I are all educated and successful, capable of living on our own with families of our own now. I'm not saying our lives have not without challenges. We have all lived in the real world. We all suffer tragedies. It's all part of life.

    I know that every filmmaker has a right to tell their own stories in a way that they want them told. I respect that. But, as creative people, our filmmakers should also try to tell stories in a creative way. I challenge them to look into where the focus on all this depression comes from anyway. I am sure they will find that it comes from some Mid-20th-Century European school of cinema such as Cinema Verité. Can we begin to rethink our points of view for the 21st Century?

    I for one am just tired of our filmmakers always making depressing films. Even in what could be a tragic situation, there is often joy to be found. Can some filmmaker out there start a new trend and begin to focus on the joys of life. I can find enough to be depressed about without having to pay to go into a darken room for a couple hours to do so. Not everything profound and worthy of storytelling has to be depressing! Example: "The Untouchables"

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