In a new era of relaxed censorship, a groundswell of Egyptian filmmakers are breaking barriers, such as Yousry Nasrallah, director of “The Aquarium” (Genenet al Asmak). I caught up with Nasrallah at the festival on Monday and we chatted about the film and global politics. Most amusing was his anecdote on how difficult it was to “cast” the spotted fish in the aquarium.
Taking place around Cairo’s landmark grotto gardens, with maze-like caverns and hidden fish tanks, “The Aquarium” is a structural and narrative puzzle, echoing its labyrinthine setting. The complex story follows the parallel lives of two lonely singles who circle around life, in disconnection, and live through the suffering of others. Laila (Hend Sabry from “The Yacoubian Building”) hosts a late-night radio program where listeners confess their secrets. Youssef (Amr Waked from “Syriana”) is an anesthesiologist who moonlights in an illegal abortion clinic. Their paths cross after Youssef calls in to Laila’s program with details of his life. Twin specters of corruption and Islamist fundamentalism haunt their sophisticated world of nightclubs and sex. (Originally reported by me for “Downtown Express”)