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40th Int’l Film Festival launches in Cairo

Cuaron crafts a neorealist masterpiece in ‘Roma’

The phrase “world creation” gets thrown around casually and frequently in cinema, but few modern directors are better at fashioning a totally transportive experience than director Alfonso Cuaron. He has taken us to space, to the edge of desire, to a bleak future and back to the wistful anxiety of childhood. And each of his very distinct fantasies have a way of sticking around in your consciousness, lingering so effectively that they often find a privileged resting place alongside your own memories.

Such is sure to be the case with “Roma”, a hypnotic, neorealist masterpiece about a middle class family living in Mexico City in the 1970s that’s inspired by the filmmaker’s own youth. But this is a different kind of autobiography. Instead of looking inward and telling a story from his own perspective, Cuaron has stepped outside of himself and chosen pay tribute to the inner lives of two people who children only ever see in the context of themselves – his mother and nanny.

And it is the nanny and housekeeper, Cleo, who gets the star treatment in “Roma”. Portrayed with astounding assuredness and depth by the novice actor Yalitza Aparicio, Cleo may appear quiet and reserved but she is acutely observant to everything that’s happening around her, no matter how small. She treats seriously the loneliness of the youngest son of the four doctor’s children she cares for. She seems to know that when her boss, Sofia (an exquisite Marina de Tavira) snaps at her to clean up the dog poop in the garage, that it isn’t about her. She is used to absorbing the pain of others, which makes her own trials through the course of the film even more devastating to experience.

As with many families with a live-in housekeeper, Cleo may be getting paid for her service, but she is as much of mother figure to the children of the household as their birth mother, who has, at least lately, been distracted trying to keep the attention of her scoundrel husband. The men of “Roma” are little more than jerks, disappointments and nuisances who leave the women, and the audience, enraged.

Simple

This may all seem very vague, but “Roma” is a journey that doesn’t really lend itself to simple plot points. It’s simply a slice of this family’s life, at the moment when they find themselves having to adjust to life without a father, and realizing that perhaps Sofia and Cleo are quite enough and always have been, as they go from the city, to the country for the holidays and back to the reality of home, where political turmoil has reached a violent boiling point.

Cuaron is content to take his time with “Roma”, allowing the camera to linger on his subjects and the frustrating banalities of ordinary, everyday life that sneak up on you with poetic significance as the film goes on, like a garage, the ever present dog poop that Cleo is always picking up, and a car that’s too big to fit. It’s the kind of patience that makes so many moments indelible and affecting – from something as small as Cleo sitting in a movie theater to a rowdy holiday party brought to a halt by a fire. It is filmmaking on the highest level.

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CAIRO: The 40th Cairo International Film Festival was launched on Tuesday at the Cairo Opera House with many ministers, movie stars, and producers from around the world present.

During the opening ceremony, Egypt’s Minister of Culture Inas Abdulaleem was very hopeful that this year’s festival will be a new addition to its historical presence to present the highest level of cinematic talents.

She also added in her short speech that cinema indulges experiences and consistent participation for a better future.

The President of this cinematographic festival and film producer Mohammad Hefdhy was very optimistic in presenting a special package of films during the events scheduled for this year’s festival.

British screenwriter and director Peter Greenway was honored during the ceremony alongside the actors Hassan Hossny, Samir Sabri, film critic Yousef Shereef, and musician Hesham Nazih.

The ceremony started with the American Peter Farrelly’s film Green Book, staged to take place in the 1960s and starred Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, and Linda Cardellini. (Agencies)

The festival’s schedule is fully booked with events taking place during a nine-day period with more than 150 films to be screened, of which 16 are taking part in the international competition and 20 in the Cinema of Tomorrow competition for short films.

The Cairo film festival celebrates for the first time the Arab women who have transcended in directing cinematic films in a special event entitled “Arab Directresses”.

Cairo’s International Film Festival is one of the oldest festivals in the region as it hosted its first events in August of 1976 through the Egyptian Association of Book and Film Critics headed by the late writer and film photographer Kamal Al-Malakh who led it for seven years. (Agencies)

By Lindsey Bahr

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