The film from Ibrahim Batout, "Winter of Discontent," starring Amr Waked, Salah al Hanafy and Farah Youssef, was created during the revolution in Egypt. Now the film is due to premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
"We worked under very precarious circumstances," says young Egyptian actor Amr Waked. "The revolution was in full swing, everything was a mess; people were everywhere. But we wanted to be inspired by the events. We used the creative energy unleashed by the revolution."
His blue eyes sparkle and his words sound well considered. "The energy was so enormous that we simply had to listen to it. We were driven by it."
On February 10, 2011, just one day prior to Hosni Mubarak's resignation as president of Egypt, the crew began filming in Tahrir Square, where the largest demonstrations against the regime took place in the winter of 2011. It was the stage of the revolution - the perfect place to record the first scenes of the film "Winter of Discontent."
The team was pulled into the maelstrom of the revolution.
"We thought that we would be guided and should begin filming. We knew what we wanted to communicate," remembers Waked. Filmmaker Ibrahim El-Batout, director of "Ain Shams" ("Eye of the Sun"), had a vague idea in mind, which was realized through the creativity and improvisational efforts of the team. There was no script and very little money.
"We knew that we didn't need a gigantic budget in order to produce something which people would appreciate," said Salah al Hanafy, who not only played the role of an ice-cold member of the Egyptian security forces, but also produced the film. It was the first time that al Hanafy had stood before the camera.
A political activist played by Amr Waked (pictured) is arrested and tortured by state security forces
The film's panoramic shots are slow; the images linger. The actors had enough time to play their characters with intensity.
Farah Youssef plays a young TV reporter who angrily breaks free from the state propaganda machine which had dominated Egypt's media landscape under the Mubarak regime. For several minutes in the film, she sheds tears of desperation and fury at herself and the system.
She is the girlfriend of Amr (played by Amr Waked), a political activist who, because of his activities, is arrested and tortured by the state security forces. During a police interrogation, he meets Adel (Salah al Hanafy), a member of the state security forces, who out of love for his country, does not shy away from humiliating and torturing his fellow citizens.
As revolution breaks out across Egypt, the three protagonists find their way back to their values - the good as well as the bad.
Birth of an art form
The premiere of "Winter of Discontent" will be celebrated in early September at the Venice International Film Festival, which is in its 69th edition this year.
The Egyptian film team portrays a country which has changed not only politically, but also culturally. "The revolution was the birth of a new art form," said Salah al Hanafy. "It is the energy from Tahrir Platz which is like a massive generator for the country."
"Artists assumed a very active role. Naturally we're all worried about developments to come. However, we're celebrating the new creative freedom," Amr Waked added.
Salah al Hanafy and Amr Waked knew each other as schoolchildren and as university students. Many years later, at a chance meeting at a restaurant in Cairo, the two vowed to find success together in the Egyptian film industry - something they've now achieved with "Winter of Discontent."
Reawakening in Egypt
Now they are rebelling against the ailing structures of the industry. "Most producers have a lot of money," al Hanafy said. "These people work very differently to us. Films are money-machines to them. They have no passion. In contrast, we come from the grassroots. It's clear to us what the people want: They love cinema."
With their invitation to Italy the film has been brought to international attention. The festival is one of the most prestigious in the industry. "The screening in Venice is a mark of quality. It gives us the energy to carry on with what we believe in: The good low-budget film," continued the 40-year-old.
"It's about having a good idea. It's our first feature film that we always dreamed of with our company ZAD Communication and Production. Many people thought that the film industry in Egypt was dead," he said. "But it isn't. We had a revolution; Egyptians have awoken."