In the Last Days of the City, the long gestating debut feature of Egyptian filmmaker Tamer El Said which he’d started in 2009, is laced with beguiling formalism, ambiguity and meta-elements. It didn’t just blur, to the point of being indistinguishable, the line between documentary and fiction, it also self-reflexively traversed in and out of a film within the film, and had multiple sections shot in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square just as Arab Spring, that would end with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, was about to sweep across Egypt (though, ironically, things became even worse thereafter). The film’s protagonist (Khalid Abdalla) is a documentarian trying to capture the city’s essence and its myriad facets, by interviewing people he knows and capturing moments and events like a guerilla filmmaker. Unfortunately, in a curious parallel, his work is going nowhere just like his life seems to be stuck in a stasis – his mother is unwell, his girlfriend has decided to move on, and he keeps visiting one place after another with an increasingly frustrated broker in a seemingly endless apartment-hunt. When he has a catch-up with a few of his politically conscious filmmaker friends from the troubled cities of Beirut and Baghdad, does he finally seem to start finding a sense of direction and perhaps a way out from his artistic block. The film, filled with striking and visceral images of the city, comprises of a few memorable moments – the demolition of a dilapidated building with strong metaphorical connotations, political protests getting a brief reprieve upon the Egyptian football team’s success in the African Cup of Nations, and candid displays of daily violence inadvertently caught on camera.
Director: Tamer El Said
Genre: Drama/Existential Drama/Experimental Film