Cairo Film Festival (CIIF) announced on Saturday that Marianne Khoury’s latest film Let’s Talk will be part in the festival’s International Competition.
Through different and special visualisation, Let’s Talk is follows four women from four different generations in the family of the late director Youssef Chahine, Khoury’s uncle, who’s originally from the Levant (historical region of Syria), western Asia.
The connection between cinema and reality was vivid though Khoury’s presentation by approaching the topic through a conversation between a cinematic mother (Khoury) and her daughter (Sara, who is studying filmmaking in Cuba). The two women delve into the difficulties and pleasures of life through an amalgamation of footage, tackling reality and imagination, featuring both members of the family as they feature in Chahine’s autobiographical films and the family’s ladies in real life.
“This may indeed be an unprecedented event which goes to show the extent to which the festival admires Khoury’s film. It also demonstrates how much more attention CIFF has paid to documentaries which had not been getting enough attention in the past few years,” said CIFF’s president Mohamed Hefzy, stating that he does not remember the last time CIFF’s International Competiion included a documentary.
Khoury said that she is very proud of the selection of Let’s Talk, stating that its screening for Cairo’s audience is her biggest reward. “Despite my happiness that my film participated in the official competition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), I am even happier that it is part CIFF’s International competition because I am personally eager to have my compatriots see it, along with the fact that CIFF will give the film the push it deserves.”
Since the film is unique, Khoury revealed that she insisted on producing it herself to be wholly responsible for it. This, she says, gave her greater freedom.
It was appropriate because the film depends on family archives – sound recordings and photographs as well as videos of her mother, her grandmother, her uncle, and Chahine with his mother which he has recorded himself – that go back 100 years, its action spanning Alexandria, Cairo, Paris, London, and Havana.
“I chose a narrative born of archival footage and manifesting from a conversation with my daughter about life, death, identity, cinema, our dreams, and love. We confront secrets and pains, and through such existential and emotional questions we delve into the history of our family, our identity and our geographic roots,” she added.
Though she studied economics in Cairo and Oxford, Khoury has directed and produced films on controversial issues such as identity, memory, and social exclusion.
She worked closely with Chahine, and made her first documentary, The Times of Laura in 1999. It was followed by Women Who Loved Cinema in 2002. Those two documentaries demonstrate the achievements of rebellious women in Egypt over the course of nearly a century.
Khoury is primarily interested in telling the stories of people who are unable to tell their own stories. Her third documentary, Shadows, on personal and social perceptions of the mentally ill, which raises questions about the concept of madness itself.
Shadows premiered in the opening of the Venice Film Festival in 2010, and it won the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (FIPRESCI) award at the Dubai Film Festival that year and the Italian television Rai award in 2011 at the International Festival of Mediterranean Documentary and Current Affairs Films.
Khoury also mediates between artists and the industry, and being interested in auteur cinema she produces independent films on topics that depart from what dominates Egyptian cinema.
Since its first round in 2004, she has played a crucial role in the Panorama of European Film initiative, which presents cinephiles in Egypt with the best and most interesting in European cinema every year. She is currently working on the Dahshour Workshops initiative to develop and produce film projects presented by budding Arab and Egyptian talents, and she has both the resources and the will to ensure its success.
CIFF’s International Competition this year includes 15 films including three world premieres: Zavera by Andrei Gruzsniczki from Romania, The Border by David David from Colombia, and Between Heaven and Earth by Najwa Najjar, a Palestinian production. It also includes two international premieres, The Fourth Wall by Zhang Chong and Zhang BO from China, and The Friendly Man by Iberê Carvalho from Brazil.