Ahmad Abdalla’s ’19B’ Explores Clash of Cultures in Cairo as City Modernizes

Egyptian helmer-writer Ahmad Abdalla, identified for being a part of the brand new wave of unbiased cinema within the Arab world along with his early movies “Heliopolis” (2009) and “Microphone” (2010), returns to the Cairo Movie Pageant with the world premiere of his sixth characteristic, “19B.” It marks the only movie from the host nation within the Worldwide Competitors lineup.

The multi-layered narrative facilities on the aged caretaker of an deserted Cairo villa generally known as 19B. The house owners have been absent for thus lengthy that nobody even is aware of how you can contact them, and the constructing is falling aside. However, the caretaker is blissful along with his jerry-rigged life there, sharing the area with deserted canines and cats, and ingesting tea with the doorman of a high-rise down the block. However issues change when the previous man is bullied and threatened by the aggressive ex-con Nasr, the chief of a avenue gang.

Speaking to Selection from Berlin the place he’s ending the movie’s color-grading, Abdalla reveals that he wrote the movie in the course of the lonely days and nights of the pandemic, when concern turned his best obsession. He says, “The movie was impressed by an previous man I used to cross whereas strolling within the Zamalek neighborhood, who was feeding cats and canines on the street no matter how broke he was. I began imagining his life and combined it with my very own questions.”

Ahmad Abdalla

Though the story reveals lots about up to date Cairo, one may additionally see it being remade in one other tradition. The anonymous protagonist is guarding an virtually demolished home that nobody cares about anymore. He clings to it because it connects him to his personal previous. The constructing and the stray animals give his solitude that means since his family members are gone. Abdalla says, “In Cairo, the issue of modernizing the town vs the previous metropolis has been a cultural concern for years and years. And the concept of the previous man who’s unable to easily settle for that the world is altering round him, and that this variation will attain him ultimately is a timeless story.”

Whereas the protagonist holds quick to his previous methods, many adjustments are going down simply exterior the villa’s partitions. These are symbolized by the youths, led by the ruthless Nasr, who cost motorists for avenue parking, together with within the area exterior the villa’s gate, and promote varied black-market vices together with alcohol and cigarettes. Abdalla says, “Egypt has at all times been a floor for clashing philosophies, ideologies and life. I’ve at all times been fascinated with the query of co-existence and the way we will all dwell collectively and share the identical assets.”

Because the dignified oldster referred to solely as “the previous man” or “Haj,” Sayed Ragab is a revelation. Abdalla says, “Once I was pursuing my profession as a filmmaker, I used to look at numerous unbiased theater. That is the place I met Sayed Ragab for the primary time and I used to be fascinated by him as an actor ever since.” As time went on, Ragab turned a longtime star and Abdalla lastly discovered the suitable half for his expertise in “19B.” He notes, “I used to be astonished how sensible and delicate to the subject he was after the primary studying.”

Additionally working for the primary time with Abdalla is Ahmed Khaled Saleh who performs the antagonist Nasr. Abdalla says, “His superb efficiency added lots to the story and to his character.”

The movie additionally includes a sturdy efficiency by petite rising star Nahed El Sebaie because the previous man’s caring and fearless daughter Yara. As she refuses to be intimidated in a confrontation with Nasr one can think about girls within the viewers cheering. Abdalla says, “Nahed El Sebaie was in my thoughts for a number of movies, however I used to be by no means fortunate together with her schedule. Lastly, we managed to work collectively and I’m wanting ahead to extra collaborations sooner or later.”

Like Abdalla’s first movie, “Heliopolis,” “19B” is a movie a couple of Cairo neighborhood. One other method through which it represents a full circle for the helmer is that it marks a return to his collaboration with busy producer Mohamed Hefzy of the Movie Clinic. Abdalla says, “Truthfully, I by no means stopped working with Hefzy. We had a few bold tasks we tried to launch all through the years, however sadly, we weren’t fortunate with them. However he has at all times been one among my favourite producers and one among my first selections every time I’ve an preliminary thought.” Certainly, when Abdalla despatched Hefzy his first draft, the producer texted again, “I like it! Let’s shoot tomorrow.”

Along with his producer’s early encouragement and help, one other factor Abdalla appreciates about Hefzy is his openness to making an attempt new concepts and new blood. Abdalla says, “For example now we have ‘Dada,’ Mostafa El Kashef, because the director of images, although it’s his first lengthy characteristic. We even have Yara Goubran, a longtime and well-known actress, working as government producer for the primary time.”

Talking of firsts, this yr additionally led to a debut for Abdalla: a images exhibition on the prestigious Tintera Gallery in Cairo. He says, “I think about myself nonetheless beginning my profession in images, however it’s one thing I actually recognize and liked doing through the years.”

Abdalla’s subsequent undertaking, “Berleen,” can be his first to happen exterior Egypt. He says, “It’s a light-hearted story going down amongst the brand new wave of younger Arab immigrants in Berlin and the way they address their new life.”