Cairo Exit tells a Romeo-and-Juliet inspired tale of two young people, one Christian, one Muslim, who fall in love amidst the grinding poverty and hopelessness of modern day Egypt.
Amal, an 18-year old Christian woman, works in a restaurant as a dishwasher. Tarek, her boyfriend, is the delivery boy who works two jobs, one in the restaurant and another in a supermarket, as he dreams of leaving Egypt for a place where they will both have more rights and be more readily received.
“How can we have a home together in this ruin?” he asks her, as they stand on the rooftops, surveying the broken down, overcrowded neighborhoods in which they live.
As they desperately debate whether to leave the land of their birth, Amal struggles with the knowledge that her meager paycheck is helping support her mother, who is reeling from a bad second marriage to a man who steals what little they already own. Plus she is haunted by the emigration of her brother, who was married to Amal’s best friend, but left her amidst the angst of their own 'mixed religion" marriage and went abroad without her to seek his fortune.
Amal and Tarek know that getting married in Egypt will only lead to ruin for both of them. Plus Amal is in the early stages of pregnancy, making their plight even more precarious. The depair and hopelessness felt by these young people comes right at you through the screen, through their eyes as they come to understand what little their homeland offers to them, and to their future together.
Shot ‘guerrilla style’ before the revolution in Egypt, the film takes you inside the neighborhoods of everyday working class Egyptians, accentuating the hand-to-mouth existence that led the youth to rebel this January. The young actor who plays Tarek, Mohamed Ramadan, was one of the many Egyptian youth who took part in the recent revolution in that country. The young actress, Maryhan, who plays Amal, does so with great dignity and resolve, showing a great spirit of strength behind the world weariness and heavy responsibilities that she carries.
Four out of five stars. A strong cast, a timely subject, good directing and excellent script writing make this film interesting not only for its politics, but for its story telling. Well worth the trip; see it.
Go here to view a Question and Answer session with the director of Cairo Exit, Hesham Issawi.
Cairo Exit is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this Tuesday April 26 at 6:45 p.m. at the Chelsea Cinemas and again on Friday April 29 at 9:30 p.m. at the same location. Go here for the full schedule. Be aware that even if a film is sold out, there are often ‘rush’ tickets available at the last minute.
The Tribeca Film Festival is an entertaining and highly diverse film festival – which is only a short train ride away on the MetroNorth New Haven line – and offers Connecticut residents an incredible variety of new films to watch, close to home – from full length features to documentaries to short films from all over the world – as well as film panels with screenwriters, directors and actors, and a host of special events. It is worth going into Manhattan and enjoying this festival; most of the films are interesting and buzz worthy.
Other Tribeca Film reviews:
Last Night– a wonderful, insightful film about relationships and faithfulness with Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. Also available on demand from Cablevision.
The Good Doctor – an interesting melodrama about physicians and patients, starring Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings)
Blackthorn – a film that lets us enjoy one more fine adventure with an aged Butch Cassidy, as he reconciles his past and teams up with a stranger in his quest to head home to the son he has never met.