EGYPT / 2016 / ARABIC WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES / 125 MIN
From one of Egypt's most controversial and taboo-breaking filmmakers comes a drama of betrayal, passion and political upheaval. A year after the events that kicked off the Arab Spring, millions of Egyptians gathered to demand the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. The January protests lasted 18 days and saw numerous attempts by the government to silence dissent using censorship and violence. In his latest film, director Khaled El Hagar establishes a parallel narrative, in which an erotic and symbolic struggle for freedom plays out on a farm while the urban revolt serves as a backdrop.
Confined to a marriage of convenience, Fatma (Nahed El Sebai) is torn between tradition and a drive to rebel against her oppressive circumstances. Her desire for renewal is ignited when an escaped convict turns up seeking shelter. The affair is extremely transgressive, especially given the rigorous religious standards that underpin Egyptian society. Much like the undemocratic political establishment, the farm's master governs with terrifying impunity. The film caused a firestorm of media debate over freedom of expression in its home country. Ironically, even under the newer government, the film was censored and subjected to numerous edits before Egyptians could view it. It's a scathing critique of the establishment, building to an unflinching ending that questions where the revolution is headed and what it has accomplished. (VIFF)