Egyptian director sends defiant Cannes message

Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah, in Cannes with an Arab Spring drama, defiantly vowed Thursday that the Islamists jockeying for power back home would never succeed in stifling art.

"In a context where cinema is being attacked as a sin in Egypt by so-called Islamist parties, this film is not so much a political commitment as a commitment to cinema," he said after a press screening of "After the Battle".

Artists and liberals in the Arab state are concerned that the Islamists who have emerged as the strongest political force in the new Egypt will seek to curtail artistic freedom.

"Our presence here in Cannes is a wonderful message to all those who want to put an end to art in Egypt," Nasrallah said, translating from Arabic the words of lead actor Bassem Samra, who sat next to him at a festival press conference.

Veteran director Nasrallah's two-hour film focuses on the messy aftermath of last year's Arab Spring, when Cairo's Tahrir Square was the epicentre of a revolt that led to the ousting of long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The movie, the sole overtly political work among the 22 films competing for the Palme d'Or top prize, kicks off with what came to be known as the Battle of the Camel, when men on horses and camels charged into the crowd of protestors.

It then hones in on one of the riders, anti-revolutionary Mahmoud, played by Samra, and his complicated interaction with a middle-class, free-thinking young woman called Reem, played by Mena Shalaby.

The film touches on issues like class, gender and corruption and provides a portrait of the people of Nazlet, who live in the shadow of the pyramids and traditionally made their living off the tourist trade that dried up after the revolution.

Nasrallah told reporters here that he had funding in place for a film before last year's revolution, but when the demonstrations started he realised he had to make a movie about it instead.

"Our emotions were focused on these events and I saw that this was the film," said the director.

He set to work on the Egyptian-French co-production without a script and persuaded his actors to take part without knowing where their roles would take them.

Last year's Cannes festival saw the controversial film "18 Days" premiered during a day honouring Egypt and its revolution.

The film, consisting of 10 shorts by different directors, covers the popular revolt that began on January 25 and led up to the fall of Mubarak's regime after more than 30 years in power.

Egypt's first post-revolution presidential elections are due on May 23-24, with the contest narrowing down to a choice between secularists linked to the old guard and Islamists who hope to repeat their success in parliamentary elections after Mubarak's ouster.

Hardline Islamists have frequently used the country's courts to punish movie directors and artists whom they accuse of insulting Islam.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • 15 wounded in 2 explosions in restive southern Philippines

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least 15 people have been wounded in two separate blasts that hit a police camp in a restive southern Philippine province where Muslim militants operate, police said Saturday. …

  • 15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp
    15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp

    Fifteen people including 10 police officers were wounded in an attack on a mosque at police camp on a remote Philippine island long plagued by Islamic militancy, officials said on Saturday. Successive blasts targeted the mosque inside Camp Kasim on the island of Jolo early evening Friday -- an initial grenade attack followed by a bomb explosion less than 10 minutes later that was intended to target police who rushed to the scene, local authorities said. "It seems the (first) explosion was set …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. However, there is no word yet if the Philippines will specifically ask Tokyo to join calls for China to stop its massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options