Film In The Last Days of the City
Tamer El Said’s debut feature tells the fictional story of a Cairo filmmaker played by Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner) as he struggles to capture the soul of a city on edge while facing loss in his own life. Shot in Cairo, Beirut, Baghdad and Berlin during the two years leading up to the outbreak of revolution in Egypt, the film has been celebrated by critics like Slate’s Jean-Michel Frodon as, “without a doubt the most important event in Egyptian cinema, if not Arab cinema, in a very long time.”
The film has been called an “ode to the fleetingness of urban landscapes and of memory” in the New York Times and in Arforum, a “majestic … a fearless elegy to the Egyptian capital, to artistic heritage in the Arab world, to passionate politics and to hope itself” by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, contributing editor of the Middle Eastern arts magazine Biduon.
Said’s feature follows the classic filmic structure of an absurdist search, all the while combining odes to experimental art cinema in its cinematography and narration. Depictions of the fictional film within the film, which in many ways we come to understand as not so different from Said’s, blends his own footage with a series of video missives sent to him by creative friends and colleagues in Cairo: a calligrapher, a composer, the founder of a roving theater troupe. As our protagonist sits in front of an editing screen we see, over his shoulder, a world of cultural life in a perilous time and place, all trying to find time to create and also mourn for those they have lost.
The film’s multi-layered stories are a visually rich exploration of friendship, loneliness and life in cities shaped by the shadows of war and adversity.