Big World Pictures has acquired U.S. rights to Egyptian director Tamer El Said’s “In the Last Days of the City,” a multilayered meditation on contemporary Cairo that launched from the Berlin Film Festival but has effectively been banned in Egypt.
The deal was inked in Paris by Brooklyn-based Big World’s Jonathan Howell and Pierre Menahem, co-founder of French production and sales company Still Moving.
Shot in the run-up to Egypt’s 2011 revolution and completed last year, “In the Last Days of the City” is about a film director played by Khalid Abdalla (“The Kite Runner,” “The Square) who is trying to capture the zeitgeist of Cairo while the city, and the world, change around him. It blends fiction and documentary-like footage sent to the film’s protagonist by friends from Berlin, Baghdad and Beirut, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Variety critic Jay Weissberg called it “a melancholic love-hate poem to Cairo and the role of filmmakers in any city in pain.”
“In the Last Days of the City,” which is El Said’s first feature, won the Berlinale Forum’s Caligari Award and scored several other awards on the international fest circuit. The film, which looks at the Cairo before and after the revolution, has been blocked by censors in Egypt, where it was meant to have its Middle Eastern premiere at the 2016 Cairo Film Festival. When the fest pulled it, hundreds of Egyptian and Arab filmmakers signed a petition asking Egypt’s culture ministry to allow a local release. But that has not happened.
Big World plans to launch “In the Last Days of the City” in the U.S. with a week-long run starting April 27 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, with El Said on hand to present his film.
Big World Pictures is a nonprofit distribution outfit whose previous releases include Tsai Ming-liang’s “Rebels of the Neon God” and Eric Rohmer classics “A Summer’s Tale” and “A Tale of Winter.” Two of its releases from Eastern Europe, Radu Jude’s “Aferim!” and Maya Vitkova’s “Viktoria,” featured on prominent critics’ lists of top 10 films of 2016.
Still Moving, which is headed by Menahem and Juliette Lepoutre, has other Arabic titles on its slate, including Ala Eddine Slim’s “The Last of Us,” which was Tunisia’s submission for this year’s foreign-language Oscar.