Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

AFF: Opening Night

I’ve been in Sydney less than 2 months but the opening night of the Arab Film Festival in Parramatta was packed with familiar faces (some more welcome than others). The first film of the festival was ‘The Cry of an Ant’ (Sarkhet Namla), billed as a “daring look into the frustrations that fuelled the Arab Spring” which “wowed the crowds at Cannes”. Sadly, both Landlady and I found ourselves agreeing more with Variety’s Cannes Film Festival reviewer, who had this to say:

Sameh Abdel Aziz’s “The Cry of an Ant” displays a tasteless opportunism made worse by the kind of screechy melodrama that gives populist regional cinema a bad rep. Shooting was almost finished when the uprising began, prompting a hasty rewrite to take advantage of the volatile situation. The idea might have worked if the pic, meant as a satire on corruption, wasn’t so clumsily made and ineptly edited. The fact that Cannes relegated the sole screening to the beach shows the fest’s true feelings; buyers beware.

I’m not sure I’d put it quite that strongly (although Landlady would), but we’re in the right area. And the kind of hasty wrap-up described in this report certainly shows.
Variety Arabia suggested that there might have been some shenanigans over the film’s inclusion at Cannes when it reported that:

The producers of “Cry of an Ant” film, directed by Sameh Abdel-Aziz, announced that they have received a call from the management of the Cannes Film Festival asking to include the film in the final selections for the formal competition because the film is a significant depiction of Egyptian society before the outbreak of the January 25 revolution. But the film hasn’t appeared on the festival’s lists which were announced at a press conference in Paris on April 14. The film tells the story of the downward spiral of the central character who, when he tries to fight the corrupt system, fails, so with the can’t-lick-them-join-them attitude gets on the bandwagon only to find himself made the scapegoat. The main characters in the film include, Amr Abdel-Galil, who gave brilliant comedic performances under renowned director Khaled Youssef in “Dukan Shehata” and “Call me, Thank you”. “Cry of an Ant” is expected to hit Egyptian screens in the summer.

It’s churlish to complain when you’re on a comp ticket! But I am looking forward to tonight’s Stray Bullet rather more.

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2011 by in Australia, Film, Middle East, Reviews and tagged , , , , , .
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