Microphone, which opened the third Film Africa festival, is the latest film by Egyptian film-maker Ahmad Abdalla El Sayed and producer and actor Khaled Abou el Naga. It’s about unrequited love, and it’s about music, global music, african music. And the youth that changed Egypt. Set in Alexandria, it follows Khaled, an egyptian returnse home after years abroad to mend ties with his father and the girl he loves, only to find she now wants to emigrate. Stunned, explores the streets of Alexandria, discovering the underground skating and heavy metal bands in the city.
I called the film ‘exquisitely beautiful’ during the Q & A session that followed the screening at the ritzy cinema, last thursday.
Talking to some friends and punters afterwards, I got some stick for that. Some thought it was just alright, and others that it had something to say but took too long to say it. There are moments in the film which seem unnecessary and it’s clear this artful film is by makers in love with the idea of themselves. But why shouldn’t they be? It’s their sentiments that fueled the transformation of egyptian society.
Microphone show us some of the inchoate feelings, sensations and situations which helped to spark the still unfinished Egyptian Revolution. Alexandria,the city, is itself a character. We become accustomed to its streets, its elegance and the simmering tensions that resolve in the one surprising act of violence in this otherwise mellow movie. With a soundtrack that never seems an addition to the story, but part of the underground musical world the characters inhabit, Microphone is definitely a musician’s film as much as it is political. Art, we’re being told is a universal language as ubiquitous as the heartbreak which also pursues the characters at every turn.
That the story unfolds gently is part of its charm. This could easily have been an indulgent or whimsical film about musicians and artists hanging out but its deftly handled, carried off successfully by superb dialogue, and an irreverence in characters that self-consciously mocks the conditions of their lives. A scene where a young hip-hop artist, accused of theft by his family and threatened with the arrival of the police playfully inverts the idea of the magic carpet; and the cafe scenes between Khaled and his erstwhile girlfriend stand out.
Obviously, made and set just before the egyptian revolution its too soon to say if Microphone will stand the test of time however, right now, its on the money.
By the way – Producer Khaled Abou Naga has graciously accepted an invitation to be interviewed for this blog – so watch this space.