Escaping from prison amid the turbulence of the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations, a nameless fugitive desperately seeks warmth and shelter in the outer regions of Cairo, in director Ahmad Abdalla’s vivid and captivating portrait of the fallout from the Arab Spring.
Contemporary World Cinema
Rags and Tatters
Ahmad Abdalla's eerily prescient Microphone, which premiered at the Festival in 2010, captured in pseudo-documentary style the despair, rage, and creative energy of the youth who would eventually become the vanguard — and cannon fodder — in Egypt's revolution. (Ironically, it was released in theatres in Egypt on January 25, 2011, the initial Day of Revolt that gave the uprising its name.) His latest, Rags and Tatters, picks up where Microphone ended, narrating the stories of those who were cast aside from the revolution's sweep.
Set in Cairo's poor neighbourhoods, the plot follows an unnamed fugitive (Asser Yasin) from the notorious jailbreak that took place in the early days of the revolution, and his anguished search for a warm and safe shelter.
With sparse dialogue, contemplative long takes, and nameless characters, Abdalla weaves documentary vignettes with Sufi chants and poetry in a hand-held style inspired by the amateur footage that flooded the media tent in Tahrir Square where the filmmaker volunteered during the eighteen days of the insurgency in 2011.
Rags and Tatters reflects on how film can translate the intensity of what Egyptians experienced — the contrasting moments of blind violence, salutary compassion, and unimagined joy — beyond sophistry and testimonies.
Borrowing its title from a line from an
improvised poetry-chanting competition
(a Sufi tradition), the film unfolds like an
ode to the deeper significance of the revolution,
beyond the political, ending with a call
for all Egyptians, privileged and castaways,
to remake their own destiny.