Egypt’s arts and culture: The best of March/April 2016

Nawara starring Menna Shalabi released in Egypt's mainstream cinemas

Egyptian social drama Nawara, which was directed and scripted by Hala Khalil, was released in Egyptian mainstream cinemas on 23 March.

The film has garnered several awards since its premiere, including two best actress awards that went to Menna Shalaby at the 12th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and more recently at the 22nd Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival, which ran between 26 March and 2 April.

Produced by Red Star, a film production company headed by Safy El-Din Mahmoud, the film is set at the time of the 2011 revolution. It tells the story of a maid, the title character, who works for a wealthy family in a gated community in Cairo, and in doing so explores the failure of a certain kind of revolutionary romanticism.

The film premiered in Egypt as it opened the 5th edition of the Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF), which ran between 17 and 23 March.

Nawara premiered in the Arab region at DIFF, and was one of five Egyptian films in competition for the Muhr Awards at the festival.

Alongside Shalaby, the film stars Mahmoud Hemeda, Sherine Reda, Ahmed Rateb, and Amir Salah Eddin.

Nawara, produced five years after the 2011 uprising, shouldn’t be seen as a revolutionary pamphlet that is propagating class conflict between the proletariat, who lack the necessities of life, including water, and the bourgeoisie, who enjoy clean water in specially designed pools.

Rather, it should be seen as an attempt to pose question marks about an unstable and controversial epoch of Egyptian history.

Read our interview with the film’s executive producer Safy El-Din Mahmoud here.

Nawara (Photo: still from the film)

Egypt filmmaker Mohamed Diab's 'Clash' in official selection at Cannes Festival 2016

Mohamed Diab's Clash (Eshtebak) was selected to open the Un Certain Regard section of the 69th Cannes Film Festival which will run between 11 and 22 May.

Produced in 2016, the film, written and directed by Diab, explores the confrontations between pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators that emerged following the removal of president Mohamed Morsi from power on 3 July 2013.

"The film portrays a very real and tense situation that brings out the worst and best of humanity,” Diab revealed to Variety in 2014.

According to the complete list of films released on 14 April by the festival organisers, Clash is the only film from Egypt to be screened in Cannes' official selection.

Read more here.

Mohamed Diab (Photo: Mohamed Diab’s official Twitter account)

Shakespeare and beyond at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

As the world marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the celebrations extended to Egypt with events focusing on the 17th century English playwright and poet in Cairo and Alexandria.

Between 21 and 27 April, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina stepped into the game with a dynamic programme with ‘Shakespeare 400: Forever and a Day’, a week-long festival that gave an indepth look at the poet through many mediums: international theatre troupes, film screenings, seminars, etc.

Earlier during the month (5-10 April), the Alexandria's International Festival for Contemporary Theatre was held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina extended to the stage of the Jesuit Culture Centre.

The festival brought to the coastal city theatre, dance and puppetry from several countries.

A bench placed at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s plaza during the ‘Shakespeare 400: Forever and a Day’ festival, Alexandria, April 2016 (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

On its 140th anniversary, Al-Ahram opens its Visual Memory exhibition

‘The Visual Memory’ exhibition, organised and hosted by Al-Ahram Establishment Art Gallery and comprising artworks from the establishment’s art collection, ran between 16-28 April.

The exhibition celebrated the 140th anniversary of the founding of Al-Ahram and displayed a selection of artworks chosen from over 750 art pieces — including paintings, sculptures, and graphic pieces by Egyptian leading artists, representatives of the modern and contemporary arts scene — in Al-Ahram's collection.

Among the many works which were on display in the exhibition are some by iconic masters such as painters Mahmoud Said (1897-1964), Ragheb Ayad (1892-1982), Salah Taher (1911-2007), Gazbia Sirry (born 1925) and Inji Aflatoun (1924-1989), among others.

At the exhibition opening, Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar, chairman of the board of Al-Ahram Establishment, asserted that the artistic treasures in Ahram’s art collection “constitute a unique variety, [with works] from different schools and artistic orientations, and which express joy, grief, power, weakness, anger, defiance, love and victory,” adding that art was created to occupy the souls of audience members and interact with them, and not be confined to locked rooms.

Al-Naggar also revealed the establishment’s upcoming project, a museum of art, “which will comprise an important selection from Al-Ahram’s enchanting possessions.”

Read more here.

Photo from ‘The Visual Memory’ exhibition which was organised and hosted by Al-Ahram Establishment Art Gallery (Photo: Al Ahram)

Alexander Saroukhan: New exhibition showcases pioneer of political cartoons in Egypt

This month art lovers in Egypt will have the opportunity to experience the work of Egyptian political cartoon pioneer Alexander Saroukhan.

A selection of Armenian-Egyptian Saroukhan’s political cartoons are showcased for the first time at Al-Masar gallery’s exhibition titled Political Comedy, which runs until the third week of May.

Al-Masar’s Political Comedy exhibition, which consists of dozens of Saroukhan’s works published in the Egyptian press between the 1930s and the 1970s, seeks to revive the memory of the Egyptian Caricaturist Artists Association’s founder.

Saroukhan moved to Egypt in 1924, and passed away on 1 January 1977. From 1952 until the time of his death, Saroukhan was chief political cartoonist at Akhbar Al-Youm. Before his employment at Akhbar Al-Youm, the artist contributed to newspapers and magazines including Rose El-Yousef and Akher Saa.

Read more here.

Serry Pasha fails in playing the National anthem, by Alexander Saroukhan. Watercolor on paper, 46x65cm (Photo: courtesy of Al-Masar gallery)

Successes of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company

The Cairo Opera Ballet Company was particularly busy in March and April, garnering many successes worth shedding the light on.

On 17 and 18 March the Cairo Opera Ballet Company performed at the National Theatre of Bahrain in Manama. This was their first performance in Bahrain.

Shortly afterwards, two of the company’s first dancers, Ahmed Yehia and Anja Ahcin, performed a scene from the Romeo and Juliet ballet during the closing gala of the International Ballet and Contemporary Dance Competition Domenico Modugno in Bari, Italy (18-21 March 2016). On their travels, the pair was joined by Erminia Kamel, the troupe’s artistic director, who has been chosen as a guest of honour of the same competition. Also a number of the young Egyptian ballet dancers participated in this prestigious competition.

Moreover, in May, Ahmed Yehia and Anja Ahcin performed Coppelia at the Interdanza, an annual event organised by Italy's Arts4all Intercultural Association in Livorno, Italy, (April and until 4 May).

Anja Ahcin and Ahmed Yehia in Romeo and Juliet (Photo: Ahmed Yehia’s facebook page) 

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