Genenet al asmak
Egypt, 2008, 111 minutes
Sat, May 3 / 3:30 / Clay / AQUA03Y
Mon, May 5 / 3:30 / Kabuki / AQUA06K
Tue, May 6 / 8:45 / Kabuki / AQUA05K
Modern Cairo at night teems on the banks of the ancient slow-moving Nile, pleasure-driven, raucously awake and anxious—a suggestive backdrop to Yousry Nasrallah’s subtle but spirited philosophical drama, concentrated on two soulless thirtysomething professionals unknowingly crossing each other’s paths in the bustling traffic. We first meet Leila as she appears to most—the sultry voice on her late-night radio program, a tell-all call-in show called Night Secrets. Youssef, a loyal listener, is an anesthetist whose respectable position belies a prurient fascination with other people’s lives and a penchant for sleeping in his car. Both of them attractive, poised and successful, they nonetheless remain rootless, secretly afraid to establish themselves in the world of social relations beyond those safely circumscribed by their jobs. Visually and dramatically, Nasrallah plays on modernity’s obsession with masks and surfaces. Actors in secondary roles even break character to impart insights into protagonists who verbally give little away. We see Leila reflected in or caught behind surfaces that betray her insubstantial life—reduced to her career, a voice on the air, she moves ghostlike through the dramas unfolding around her. One actor/character imagines Youssef as a vampire (and Nasrallah’s cheeky cut to Youssef sucking a thorn-pricked finger is a pointed visual joke). Youssef’s stony expression, wandering nocturnal life and especially his voyeurism—a ceaseless subsistence off the emotional lives of others—mark him out as unnatural, hovering like his anesthetized patients somewhere between life and death. In short, he and Leila are two of a kind: quintessentially modern and existentially missing.
Presented in association with the Arab Film Festival. West Coast Premiere. Sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.