Joseph Fahim

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Latest by Joseph Fahim


THE REEL ESTATE: A blood-spattered Egyptian soap opera

Ibrahim El-Abyad is a perfect attestation that even the most brilliant of directors can’t salvage a bad script. Boasting a lavish production, the country’s biggest matinee idol and one of the hottest young directors around, the film feels like one enormous, but tasteless meal. Neither entertaining nor socially relevant, “Ibrahim El-Abyad is the Egyptian equivalent …

Joseph Fahim

Salt of the earth: A chat with Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir

The heart of Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir’s award-winning first feature “Salt of this Sea pulses with rage, sadness, despair and irony. The political drama-cum-romance-cum-road-movie contains Jacir’s signature themes and features: strong attention to landscape, symbolism, melancholic visual poetry, bittersweet humor and, most importantly, a dissection of the mystified, disjointed Palestinian identity. A poet, writer and …

Joseph Fahim

Egypt's gospel according to St. Shehata

You gotta hand it to Khaled Youssef; each and every one of his last four films has stirred heated debate. Youssef Chahin’s protégé became an almost overnight sensation with films that dove headfirst into the traditional taboos of sex, violence and religion. Simultaneously released at the end of 2007, the surprising success of “Heya Fawda? …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: 'Ein Shams' success may inspire generations

Last time I met independent filmmaker Ibrahim El-Batout, just a couple of months ago, he seemed wary regarding the prospects of a commercial release for his award-winning film “Ein Shams (Eye of the Sun). He wasn’t just pessimistic; he appeared to be indifferent. I couldn’t blame him, to be honest; the battle for releasing “Ein …

Joseph Fahim

COMMENTARY: Defining the 'obscene'

CAIRO: In 1964, Nico Jacobellis, manager of an Ohio film arts theater, was convicted and fined $2,500 for showing Louis Malle’s controversial film “The Lovers. After extensive deliberations, the US Supreme Court upturned the verdict, ruling that the film is not a product of obscenity. When it came to defining obscenity in solid terms though, …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: All is fair in love and commerce

The summer film season is finally upon us ladies and gentlemen, a time when intelligent film-making takes a backseat to mind-numbing comedies, hackneyed sequels and brainless actioners. The first major production of the summer is “X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film I gratefully credit for ending my insomnia and giving me the best nap I’ve had …

Joseph Fahim

One on one with award-winning writer Deborah Moggach

In her most celebrated works, award-winning British novelist and scriptwriter Deborah Moggach has constantly displayed a strong interest in past eras, in different worlds and in atypical characters. In her best-selling novel “Tulip Fever (1999), Moggach tells the story of a 17th-century Amsterdam painter who falls in love with a young, beautiful and bored wife …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Ashes of a forgotten Polish tragedy

On March 5, 1940, in the forest of Katyn near Smolensk in western Russia, nearly 22,000 Polish lawyers, engineers, factory owners and military officers were shot in cold blood by the Soviet secret police. The massacre, ordered by Stalin, was designed to purge Poland not only of its military commanders, but also of its intellectual …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Where have all the good movies gone?

A few weeks back, a particular news item regarding Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon caught me by surprise. In the brief, Antoine Zend, one of the biggest foreign films distributors in Egypt, announced that the best picture Oscar nominee will not be released in theaters because, according to him, it’s not commercial enough. “Frost/Nixon, a flawed yet …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Cinema's patron saint of human suffering

Near the end of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers (2003), the Italian provocateur shows some black and white footage of a teenage girl, around 14 years of age, moving up a hill, and rolling herself down. In pain, she repeats the same procedure one more time, falls into a river and drowns. That scene gave me …

Joseph Fahim

Sharif says those who criticize Barenboim are 'idiotic'

CAIRO: Egyptian screen legend Omar Sharif referred to Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim a “friend of the Arabs and said that those who criticize him are “idiotic. In response to the media frenzy surrounding Barenboim’s performance in Cairo, Sharif defended the musician and said those who criticize him are only looking for publicity. Sharif will introduce …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Last word on Waltz with Bashir

Amid the whirl of reviews of Oscar contenders over the past few months, I deferred discussing the one unreleased picture that caused a major stir in Egypt: “Waltz with Bashir. To my surprise, the controversy regarding Ari Folman’s Oscar-nominated animated documentary about the Israeli involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 continues nearly …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Just get off his lawn!

That’s it ladies and gentlemen, if he’s true to his word, then “Gran Torino could very well be Clint Eastwood’s acting swan song, and what a way to go. Shot in about three weeks with a budget of about $35 million, the film went to earn $145 million in North America, eventually becoming Eastwood’s all …

Joseph Fahim

In Damascus, change is the norm

Halfway through watching acclaimed Scottish playwright David Grieg’s latest production “Damascus on Sunday at the Sawy Culture Wheel, I came to a rather startling realization: This is a rare occasion for Egypt to host a foreign, non-experimental theatrical production. Perhaps that’s why the play felt vigorously fresh at first, especially in the humor department, its …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Here comes the Slumdog

At last, the “Slumdog Millionaire mania lands in Egypt, backed with eight Academy Awards, worldwide grosses of more than $240 million and an irresistible aura of cheerfulness and optimism for the bleak economic times of ours. I saw the film prior to its big Oscar win and wrote that I haven’t been caught up by …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Who watches the Watchmen?

Perhaps not since Kar Wai Wong’s 2004 “2046 have I feverishly anticipated any film as much as “Watchmen. Like millions of graphic novel enthusiasts, I’m an unabashed fan of Alan Moore’s 1986 masterpiece, and for good reason. “Watchmen was the novel that changed the way comics are written and perceived; the first work to examine …

Joseph Fahim

10 most groundbreaking graphic novels of all time

The comics mania is in full swing this week in Egypt. A workshop by German comic-book illustrator Künstlern Isabel Kreitz and Egypt’s Magdy El-Shafaie (author of “Metro, Egypt’s first graphic novel) is currently underway and a number of comics exhibition are set to take place over the next few weeks. At the same time, the …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: A day of a dark victory

Not since 2004’s “Baheb El-Cima (I Love Cinema) has a film triggered widespread condemnation from Coptic groups like “Wahed-Sifr (One-Zero). The film is the latest ensemble drama from “Malek we Ketaba’s (Heads and Tails) helmer Kamla Abu Zekry. For all the near-unanimous acclaim “Baheb El-Cima (from Oussama Fawzi) was showered with, no other film in …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Desolation road

Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we’re special; that we’re superior to the whole thing. But we’re not. We’re just like everyone else. We’ve bought into the same, ridiculous delusion, April Wheeler says in “Revolutionary Road . At a time when I was quite into John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy …

Joseph Fahim

Swiss Film Week kicks off today at Galaxy

After abruptly closing down last year, Cinemania – Egypt’s premier art-house film institute – is back with more movies, a diverse program and a host of stars and filmmakers. Starting today, Cinemania, in cooperation with Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia and the Swiss Films Organization, presents the Swiss Film Week; a week-long festival held at …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: 'Benjamin Button' in the heart of life

Then Almitra spoke, saying, ‘We would ask now of Death.’ And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? From “The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. At last, the awards season is over and, as expected, “Slumdog Millionaire swept the …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Oscars 2008: Nothing much to get excited about

After reaching a decade-long high with its nominated films last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has stumbled back to earth with this year’s nominees that essentially reflect the mediocrity and ordinariness of the unfolding American awards season. The comparison between last year’s selection and the current one is inevitable. On one …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: A life less ordinary

His name is Kanji Watanabe, a longtime bureaucrat, a widower and a father of a married son. Watanabe has gastric cancer. In six months, he’ll be dead. The cause of Watanabe’s sheer agony is not death per se. The fact of the matter is, Watanabe hasn’t accomplished anything of true significance in his life. “In …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Lesbians, junkies and perverts – welcome to modern Cairo

In one of the most famous scenes of Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 classic “The Bad and the Beautiful, a big-time producer, played by Kirk Douglas, scolds his director, played by Leo G. Carroll, during production over the lack of sufficient climaxes in the film. The director hits back, saying he should direct the movie himself to …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Last man standing

What a week it’s been for movies. First off, Sundance managed at last to defy expectations and deliver a host of exceptional pictures, ranking this year’s edition the best in many years. Second, the fairly predictable Oscar nominations were finally announced, promising nothing much to get excited about except for the acting categories. On these …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Far away in the land of boredom

January is increasingly becoming one of the slowest months for movies. This year in particular, things have been slower than usual. Apart from the disappointing major Arabic Eid movies along with the usual slew of Hollywood’s holiday blockbusters, no new pictures of worth have been released in Egyptian theaters, mainly due to the deference of …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: The lesson of Sullivan

On the fourth day of Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, I was discussing the ongoing atrocity and its future ramifications with an acquaintance. The conversation took a detour to the subject of art and its role in times of war. “Art is a luxury, my acquaintance said. “What’s the use of art in such times? …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: Beirut Open City

Since the informal establishment of Lebanese cinema in the early 1930s, few Lebanese films in the entire turbulent history of the country’s struggling film industry have managed to garner substantial world acclaim while shaking the country’s stagnant box-office. Since the early silent comedies, Lebanese films were first and foremost shaped by politics. The search for …

Joseph Fahim

THE REEL ESTATE: All he wanted you to do is smile

One of the earliest images I recall from my childhood was the iconic scene of Charlie Chaplin being force-fed by the corn-on-the-cob feeder from his 1936’s classic “Modern Times. As funny as the scene was, there was something disquieting about it that I didn t quite understand back then. Perhaps that’s why I preferred the …

Joseph Fahim

Economic slump takes its toll on the entertainment industry

The global entertainment industry has always praised itself for proving to be “recession-proof. Case in point: The age of depression. As America struggled with its worst economic crises in history, the public flocked in droves to the movies, cheering for Warner Bros’ crime flicks, watching a less-ambiguous reality presented in the social dramas, and laughing …

Joseph Fahim