Best Film from the Arab World/Documentary Competition - Rulers and governments may come and go, but in Cairo there will always be one thing that hardly ever moves: the traffic. “Cairo is an essay in entropy, a measure of disorder and randomness. But order is nevertheless maintained, if barely,” begins Sherief Elkatsha’s insightful portrait of the great metropolis as seen through the windshields of its cursing, resigned drivers.
Like veins in the body, the roads reflect the symptoms of their society, afflicted by a cryptic bureaucracy, over-polluted and filled with frustration and rage. Here traffic laws are changed on a whim by the government, then just as quickly challenged (or ignored) by the people, while the asphalt itself hosts an endless dance of leading and following, attack and retreat. Some drivers seize their moment for change (“The rule is simple: if there is space, occupy it”), while others can only sigh, “Life is a joke unto itself.”
Elkatsha’s camera remains poised in the passenger seat, an unblinking witness to a cavalcade of wrong turns, blind swerves, screeching stops and dramatic escapes, all cued to a soundtrack of “the secret language of horns and honks.” In and out of the car, ordinary Egyptians across religious and class boundaries—taxi drivers, school officials, politicians, a woman trying to pass her driver’s exam (after driving herself to it, of course), little kids dressed as stop lights—chime in on life on Cairo’s maddening streets, where no matter the confusion and frustration, and no matter who’s in charge of the roads, life will always continue to flow.