After seeing the award winning documentary Cairo Drive by director Sherief Elkatsha, I gained a new perspective on the revolutions of Egypt. The director’s ability to document the early stages of the insurgencies was extraordinary. Speaking with the director prior to viewing of the film, helped me gain a better understanding of what he was trying to accomplish. By focusing on the people and not the problem was an interesting perspective of a time were the people of Egypt were being framed as erratic and non-conforming. Prior to viewing the documentary, I had no idea that there was an aspect to the Arab Spring that was from a working-class point of view and one that was not biased against the different sides of the revolution. I thought that all working-class people of Egypt had some kind of personal vendetta with the government, but now I feel that those who were involved had reason.
The documentary shows a whole new side of Egypt I had never seen before. Simply seeing the amount of traffic that floods the Egyptian streets, was very interesting. There was much more to the fight than the politically stricken points of views portrayed by the media. Also, I liked how the director created a continued stream of consciousness that explored the different personalities of downtown Cairo taxi drivers in response to the elections. The director’s ability to grab the audience with his simplistic form of cinematography, using minimal camera effects was inspiring. Without knowing that the revolution was to occur, the director created a realistic way of viewing such a powerful time in Egypt’s history, without disturbing the ideologies of the movement. I think that in my future, I would like to create a similar documentary form, by applying simplicity to filming to create my own image of openly portrayed personalities in the wake of chaos.
“Traffic equalizes the plain field; everyone is at the same stage”
After seeing Cairo Drive I have to say now I consider myself somewhat more knowledgeably towards the driving in Cairo.
The direction Sherief Elkatsha took in the movie was different but at the same time one of the best ways to do it. As he mentioned on the Q&A after the film, doing the film from the car was much easier because people would talk about everything behind a wheel. They were hesitant to begin with and only wanted to talk about driving, but once they were on the road, the stress and anger got them talking about all different topics. In my opinion this is a very tactical way to do it which allowed Sherief Elkatsha to obtain much more information than if he would have just placed a camera in front of the interviewees.
When you see the way people drove before and after the Revolution you can notice a big change, especially because before the driving in Cairo was ruled by corruption; as the government prohibited trucks in certain areas during some hours, but the truck drivers would bribe the police to let them in. Another common action was using bribe to get the driving license.
This all kind of changed when the revolution came as a great amount of regulation was enforced and the driving license were checked at every corner. However, as I mentioned, it only kind of changes because not all rules where adapted to this new way of living and if you don’t change the rules from the top of the hierarchy then the change won’t be successful throughout the society.
Now I understand why the film was made in Cairo, as Sherief Elkatsha said; “there is no bubble”, everyone shares everything, it is a very communal environment and collectivistic culture where everyone passes everything around. In the film there are a few shots which show this, as you can see how two people are on the motorbike riding side by side talking and how people pass things from one car to another. In the Q&A he also mentioned how he had filmed how a man passed a cup of tea to another man in a different car.
Caro Drive was a very entertaining documentary about driving in the streets of Cairo. The movie was followed by a discussion with filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha, who also visited the class earlier that day. Sherief Elkatsha repeatedly said that his film was not about the revolution, but that the revolution just happened while he was making the movie, a documentary that took him five years to produce. It is true that the revolution is not the focus of the story, but its impact on the city can still be felt while watching.
It was invigorating to see how openly Sherief Elkatsha discussed the process of making the movie and that he openly admitted that a lot of lucky coincidence was involved instead of trying to be the mysterious filmmaker with a masterplan. I think that gave a lot of the film students in the audience hope and the strength to try to go along with their own projects.