“Not many quality films come out of our part of the world. Commercial pressures are strong, which leaves the stories that matter untold.”
These are just a couple of the damning lines on the indiegogo page of Egyptian film in-the-making, Cactus Flower. It’s an almost poetically defeatist sentiment, but one that rings true every time I see Mohamed Saad dressed as Khaltee Atata, or when I remember that Hamada Helal once sang, “Ana Sbonge Bob” in a film. This is what our film industry produces, ladies and gentleman; this is what the masses flock to the cinemas to see. Even the films that are bold enough to deviate from the tried-and-tested ‘comedy’ formulas, often trip into a seemingly endless sequence of cliches and misguided Hollywood homages. Mini-rant over – let’s talk about the matter at hand.
Aiming to hit $50,000 on indiegogo, Cactus Flower is the vision of Egyptian visual artist, writer and all-round woman of the world, Hala Elkoussy, and tells the tale of three individuals struggling to exist in the urban decay of Cairo after finding themselves homeless. Having been chosen to take part in the Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde – a program run by Cinémas du Monde Pavilion in cooperation with Cannes Film Festival which aims to support emerging filmmakers – there’s already a buzz around the film, which has thus far been worked on by crew and staff voluntarily. But good will and intention can only go so far in cinema and time is of the essence for Elkoussy on co., who are aiming to have a final cut of the film ready for festival season in 2016.
Menha El Batrawy, Arfa Abdel Rassoul and Salma Samy at a script reading earlier this month (Cactus Flower Facebook)
Elkoussy is no stranger to these kinds of challenges, though, having co-founded Downtown cultural hub, Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), in 2004 and her work in the arts has taken her all across the world for exhibitions, residencies and even a bit of writing. In moving towards their goal, the Cactus Flower team are also said to be creating a formal and usable model for producing films on shoe-string budgets.
Despite the obstacles, Elkoussy and the Cactus Flower team seem to have a quiet confidence. "We work as a collective," the indiegogo page goes on to say. "We are truly independent. We own our film."
By Haisam Awad
Main Image: cactusflowerfilm.wix.com