Day (which was actually night) 1 of Cairo, started with our arrival
from Tunis on Friday night and a swift pickup by the Meramees Hostel
driver who got us into Downtown (chainsmoking ‘Cleopatra’ cigarettes)
in less than 30 minutes. This was, according to him, a miracle. We
checked in to our spacious if spartan room in the middle of the city
on the 5th and 6th floors of a massive colonial building. Operating
ancient Cairo elevators turned out to be not an unusefull skill.
In the evening we had dinner with Jonathan Curling (British producer
working for Misr International Films), Juditta (starting up a local
talent agency after many years working abroad) and two of her young
actor clients. Revenue at the restaurant, which mainly served the ex-
pat community, was down 60% since the Revolution and our time in Cairo
was peppered with similar depressing statistics.
On the first full day we met William Wells from the Townhouse Gallery.
He is an ex-pat Canadian based in Cairo for over 30 years who has
grown Townhouse into a lively hub for contemporary art and film with
projects suchs as residencies, galleries, workshops, screenings and a
bookshop. William gave good feedback and contacts, clearly pointing
out the benefits and pitfalls of a project such as ours.
After we spent a couple of hours in the world-famous Egyptian Museum
escaping heatwave Cairo and Tahrir Square, Maartje met with some local
independent filmmakers, who all showed their enthusiasm for the
project and interest in applying. In the evening we met Marianne
Khoury, managing director of Misr International Films (Youssef
Chahine’s company), together with Jonathan, for dinner. It was
inspiring to talk to her about her work in Egyptian cinema and
especially the script development and short film programmes for young
filmmakers she initiated.
On our final day in Cairo we met Dalia Suleiman and Tamer el Said of
Zero Productions, after William’s suggestion. Zero is made up of
several young filmmakers who are determined to build up from scratch a
new film industry/infrastructure in Cairo. In a Downtown 30′s building
overlooking a synagogue, they are renovating 3 floors in which they
have a production company, an online civic-journalism platform called
Mosireen as well as an exhibition and meeting space for filmmakers
called Cimatheque. A very energetic Tamer, who is overseeing the
respective projects, is more then willing to offer Cimatheque as a
platform for the Spring project and potential full Cairo partner. He
also made practical and welcome suggestions to improve the project: an
additional workshop for all filmmakers in the development phase, as
well as a mobile film festival after the films are finished.
For lunch we met the lovely Cathy Costain at the British Council
headquarters for a catch up and chat about the Cairo cat populations,
cakes and sexual harrasment (to name just a few). We then made our way
across town to book 2 tickets on the nightbus to the Israeli border at
Taba-Eilat, crossing Sinai in 7 hours. To close our great Cairo
experience, we met some other local filmmakers and a young TV
documentary team from Germany for a traditional ‘Koshery’ (street food
megamix of spaghetti, rice, macaroni, chickpeas and a bunch of other
starchy/greasy ingredients) and later apple nargileh at Townhouse.
Armed with bananas and babywipes, we left for the bus station around
10:30 pm. Israel here we come..