Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cairo Time (Rhoades)

“Cairo Time” Is a Jewel

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As I get older, I find myself less engrossed in watching teen comedies or coming-of-age films. They’re starting to feel like a relic of my past. Just as teenyboppers no longer attract me, my gaze turns to more mature women. No wonder AARP keeps sending me all those mailings.

So at my age it’s nice to see a romantic film that features a fiftysomething woman and a man of similar seniority. That’s what we find in “Cairo Time,” the story of an unexpected love affair that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Written and directed by Ruba Nadda, “Cairo Time” won Best Canadian Feature Film” at last year’s Toronto
International Film Festival.

Nadda’s childhood visit to the idiosyncratic, frantic city of Cairo stuck with her, luring her to return, inspiring her to create this film.

Nadda saw the character Juliette in her mind’s eye. “She was arriving at the airport in Cairo, and in turn an Arab man was meeting her and they were supposed to fall in love,” she says. “So I pocketed those images together and turned it into a movie.”

In “Cairo Time,” a Canadian magazine editor named Juliette (the wonderful Patricia Clarkson) travels to this faraway port of call in Egypt for a three-week vacation with her husband Mark who works for the UN (Tom McCamus). However, when Mark is detained in Gaza, he asks his Egyptian friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to show her the sights of the city.

Thus sparks a surprise romance. “With ‘Cairo Time’ I was trying to say that this is a grand, epic romance,” says the director. “It’s not a film about immediate gratification where the two heroes get together in the first twenty minutes. It’s not a music video. I appreciate the subtlety of it because I feel like that kind of patience is lost in modern day cinema. It’s why I went to Patricia Clarkson because I knew that she possessed that subtlety and ‘regalness’. I just feel like audiences can relate to that, I really do.”

“This part required very different things of me,” observes Clarkson. “It's a very revealing character. I loved the character as much for what she didn’t say as what she did say.”

There’s an innocence to this brief affair. A cordial relationship that turns to love over the course of two people sharing the city of Cairo for a magical moment in time.

To be clear, this is as much a love affair with an exotic city as with an exotic man. Juliette marvels at the narrow streets, the aroma of hashish in the air, the markets, the men-only cafes, the White Desert outside the city, the serpentine expanse of the Nile.

“Ruba Nadda and I have become great friends,” declares Clarkson. “She’s like the little sister I never had. She is quite beautiful and very charismatic. She got us into places that no one’s ever shot in Cairo

A government censor was assigned to oversee the film’s production. “There were all these locations that no one had ever been allowed to shoot in. I was obsessed,” Nadda recalls. “I had to constantly play these games to lose her so she wouldn’t tell me that I couldn’t shoot something!”

Although Canadian-born, Nadda has a Syrian and Palestinian heritage. “When I was given a hard time I would always say, ‘Well, I’m an Arab. You have to let me shoot here.’ I was saying that in Arabic and in the end they would!”

Patricia Clarkson smiles wistfully. “I think Ruba has captured real Cairo, with all of its beauty and a little of its underbelly.”

One moviegoer called it “an exquisite feast for the eyes, ears and eventually, the heart.” Yes, a love story for grownups.
[from Solares Hill]

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