** English translation coming **
O foarte scurtă istorie a Egiptului modern la cel mai înalt nivel al reprezentării sale politice ar suna cam aşa: de la instituirea republicii, în 1953, şi până la căderea lui Hosni Mubarak, în 2011, au există 5 preşedinţi, dintre care primul şi al patrulea au prestat în funcţia supremă, însumat, mai puţin de un şi jumătate. În restul timpului, postul a fost ocupat de Gamal Abdel Nasser (16 ani), Anwar Sadat (11 ani) şi Mubarak (aproape 30 de ani). Din 2011 până în 2014, Egiptul a avut 4 preşedinţi, cel mai recent, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, fiind încă în funcţie.
A very short history of modern Egypt at the height of its political representation would sound like this: ever since the republic was instituted in 1953 and until the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 there were 5 presidents, the first and the fourth occupying the highest function for less than one year and a half summed up. Apart from that, the position was held by Gamal Abdel Nasser (16 years), Anwar Sadat (11 years) and Mubarak (almost 30 years). Between 2011 and 2014, Egypt had 4 presidents, the most recent one, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, being still in office.
But is anybody truly interested in the history of a country at its height? The kind of history that we, the ones well past 30 years old, had had in our history books in middle school and high school? Maybe we should be interested, perhaps not exclusively, but specked with details about the lives of people without access to high functions and eye-catching public events. Moderation? How long has it been since you last heard this noun?
In Egypt’s sociopolitical turmoil, the Australian Kim Beamish tends, in Tentmakers of Cairo, to the idealized, idyllic balance described in the previous paragraph. His camera observes, for 3 years, the trivial events and everyday details of the lives of rug weavers specialized in the traditional Khayamiya technique. Once widely spread, this technology has now become the appanage of a small circle of masters, whose stores/workshops/stalls are mostly found on a certain street, the Sharia of Khayamiya, in Cairo.
With patience, talent and humor, Beamish catches the air of the bazaar, with its inevitable fights, crams, negotiations, trash, smiles, incidents on the edge of violence or beyond it, pulsing with contradictions, hopes and resignation. In the meantime, the filmmaker creates very convincing portraits, making out of a few weavers memorable characters. The montage combines their individual fates with their equally individual opinions about the great politics. Iocan’s various clearings, spiced with teas and cigarettes, are intensely fueled by the ubiquitous televisions with news from the marketplaces full of protesters.
On a single occasion, some of the heroes of the movie choose to be the direct witnesses of the events and go, for an evening, to Tahrir Square. Other than that, they prefer the role of the touch judge, fierce in his opinions, passionate about the common destiny, but sufficiently convinced of his inability to change anything through his own voice to refuse the role of the protagonist.
True professionals, trying, with a certain degree of success, to sell their wares beyond the boundaries of their country to whose fate they are so intimately tied, skeptical yet dreamy regarding its future, Beamish’s weavers are far from a local example. To quote almost accurately the words of a local, ‘Their story? My story. Mine, and yours, and others’.’
For this remarkable familiarity, for this unexpected closeness across kilometers, traditions and religions, The Tentmakers of Cairo deserves a round of applause and multiple of meditation. Right in the middle of bloody day-to-day life, here’s a tiny yet comforting confirmation of an almost destroyed thought: the man from here and the man from there might, perhaps, get along, having a cup of tea or a cigarette, come to think of it.