For the ninth year, Sakia Culture Wheel is celebrating young filmmakers with three consecutive days of documentaries as part of the 9th Sakia Festival for Documentaries. The event, which went from 10 to 12 December, aims at encouraging filmmakers and viewers alike to view this often ignored area of cinema. Each night multiple screenings were held over about four hours.
The panel that chose the films was made up of notable figures of Egyptian cinema such as: Dr Ghada Gobara, the dean of the High Institute of Cinema who also acted as a judge in other festivals such as the Alexandria film festival; Dr Wael Saber, a professor at the institute and a filmmaker himself; and Director Soad Shawky, whose films have been screened at many local and international festivals.
One of the films screened was Dark Philosophy by Hassan Reda, which followed local metal band of the same name. Metal has suffered many setbacks in Egypt. In the 1990s, a concert was raided by the police and attendees labelled as “Satan worshipers”. Some rumours arose of slaughtered cats and “blood parties”. Ever since, the metal genre and its fans have garnered a somewhat tainted reputation, so much so that some venues refuse to accommodate metal bands. Reda explores this idea in his film and how it affects local musicians.
Current band members of Dark Philosophy – Noor ‘Mephisto’ Amr, Ahmed Tawfek , E.O. Islam, and Tariq Zulfakkar – are interviewed in the 30 minute documentary. They share their origins and how metal music has affected their lives. They have been playing for about 10 years, but it has become more and more difficult to find places to host their concerts. However, they remain determined.
“We will never stop playing,” said Noor, the main vocalist and founder of the band. The documentary also shows that these musicians are regular people, who have families and day jobs and not some ‘darkly-clad Satan lovers.’
Another documentary that was screened is City on the Border by Mohamed Farouk Mohamed, which shines a light on Sinai, specifically the city of Rafah, which has been divided since the 1967 war. Half of the city now lies in Egypt and the other half in the occupied Gaza strip. The filmmaker interviewed residents from both parts of the city, sometimes finding the same family divided between two countries. The documentary also explores the illegal underground tunnels used to smuggle products and people into Gaza.
The film features men who earn their living by working in and around the tunnels. In one of the featured tunnels some of the jobs included labourers, line operators, cafeteria workers and look outs. These workers earned anything from EGP 70 or 100 shekels per day. The film showed the difficulties faced of those living in Gaza forced to cross into Egypt when faced with emergencies. They claimed that even crossing into Egypt in order to go to the hospital can take up to 12 hours. On the other hand, using an underground tunnel illegally can take just 10 or 15 minutes.
These were just two of the dozens of films shown throughout the three days of screenings; both featured interesting subject matter, but would have benefitted from better editing to draw the viewer deeper into their stories.