Rags and Tatters
Rags and TattersOriginal Title: Farsh wa ghata
Director: Ahmad Abdallah
Egypt | Arabic
Ahmad Abdalla’s eerily prescient second feature Microphone (2010) captured in a nearly documentary style the despair, rage and creative energy of the youth that would eventually become the vanguard and cannon fodder of Egypt’s revolution, and, ironically, was released in theaters in Egypt on January 25, 2011, the very day the popular uprising against Mubarak broke out in Tahrir Square. Set in the disenfranchised outer rings of Cairo, the film tells stories of those who have been isolated from public visibility and the sweep of the revolution. Rags and Tatters has the aura of a sequel because it picks up where Microphone ended. Laced with Sufi chants and poetry, Abdalla weaves documentary vignettes, characters and stories, filmed with handheld camcorder or mobile phone, amateur style, inspired by the plethora of footage that flooded the media tent in Tahrir Square, where the filmmaker volunteered during the 18 days of the insurgency.
The plot follows the anguished search for a warm and safe shelter of a fugitive (Asser Yasin) from the notorious jailbreak that took place in the early days of the revolution. Visually captivating, with sparse dialogue, contemplative long takes and nameless characters, Abdalla reflects on how film can translate the intensity of what Egyptians experienced: the stark, clashing moments of blind violence, kindhearted compassion and unimagined joy, beyond sophistry and verbal explanations. Borrowing its title from a Sufi tradition of improvised poetry-chanting competition, Rags and Tatters unfolds like an ode to the deeper significance of the revolution that goes beyond its political aspects, ending with an epiphany of the promises for all Egyptians, privileged and castaways, to remake their own destiny.