Hawi director salutes Alexandria with Egyptian premiere Batout's latest feature begins nationwide theatrical release this Wednesday
Breaking new ground in a country where films tend to play first in Cairo, filmmaker Ibrahim Batout hosted the Egyptian premiere of his new film, Hawi (The Juggler) in Alexandria, the northern coastal city where the film was shot using local non-professional actors and volunteer crew members - many of whom saw their work in the award-winning film for the very first time on Saturday at the eagerly-awaited event.
The premiere for Hawi took place in Alexandria at the Renaissance Cinema, the state-of-the-art San Stefano theatre complex owned by Al Arabia Cinema Production & Distribution, the same pan-Arab entertainment company that is also distributing Hawi. Through Al Arabia, the film will now open theatrically across Egypt starting today (Wednesday, June 22nd). Batout was so eager to show his gratitude to the people and city of Alexandria - which also happens to be the birthplace of Egyptian filmmaking more than a century ago - that he interrupted his European film festival tour to attend.
Flying directly that morning from Italy, where Hawi had been chosen to play at the prestigious Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, Batout made a point of inviting everyone who had participated and shaking hands with every cast and crew-member who attended. He thanked them all ahead of the screening for entrusting their faith in him as a filmmaker and suggested that if anyone found fault with what they were about to see, the blame lay entirely with him.
"Being able to show the film in the wake of the January revolution means a lot to me, especially since the film is being released in the summer - something that would have been impossible before now. The fact that I could showcase my film in Alexandria - as a salute to a great and revolutionary city, as well as all those who worked on the film - shows that Egyptian Cinema on the road to healthy progress," noted Batout. Following the premiere,Batout flew immediately back to German that same evening to attend two special screenings of his earlier film Ein Shams.
Hawi is the third full-length feature film by Batout following Ithaki and Ein-Shams (Eye Of The Sun) and continues his tradition of observing the details of everyday life in Egypt. Written and directed by Batout, who produced the film through his Ein Shams Company, Hawi introduces an impressive array of new Alexandrian acting talent, including Mohamed El Sayed, Sherif El Dessouky, and Rina Aref. They appear alongside the already established veteran actor Hanan Yousef.
Shot entirely in Alexandria, the story of Hawi follows the journey of Youssef, a prisoner released after five years of solitary confinement in order to fetch a sheath of important documents, with a number of seemingly unconnected subplots, concerning a group of aspiring songwriters, a satellite TV executive searching for a show host, and an elderly juggler leading his sickly old horse though the city street.
What might have been a straight-ahead story with predictable scenes, becomes an organic study of a city populated by disparate, often desperate, characters, a closer view of so-called reality and the lives of everyday people, declared the official programme for The Doha Tribeca Film Festival, where the film took home The Grand Prize for the Best Film in October, 2010.
In addition to The Doha Tribeca Film Festival,Hawi was invited to play at The 40th Rotterdam International Film Festival that was held from January 26th to February 6th. The film participated in the official competition and was praised by the audiences for its high technical standards.
The film then went to play at The 29th Fajr Film Festival in the Iranian capital of Tehran, which was held in last February, and also The Gulf Film Festival in Dubai last April. Just recently, Hawi took part in Italy's Taormina Film Festival, where Ein-Shams won The Golden Tauro Best Film Award in 2008.