Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Coming Forth By Day is the debut feature film for the Egyptian director Hala Lotfy. Courtesy Birds Eye View
Coming Forth By Day is the debut feature film for the Egyptian director Hala Lotfy. Courtesy Birds Eye View
Hala Lotfy accepts the award for Best Director from the Arab World at this year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Film Festival
Hala Lotfy accepts the award for Best Director from the Arab World at this year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Film Festival

Coming Forth By Day: Hala Lotfy's story of hope in dark times

The debut feature film by Egyptian writer-director Hala Lotfy tells the story of a small family being worn down by the indignities of everyday life.

Coming Forth By Day, the debut feature film by the Egyptian writer-director Hala Lotfy, is a tightly controlled study of a small family being worn down by the indignities of everyday life: sickness, money problems, rejection, restlessness, frustration. Dialogue is sparse and most of the action happens in a single, cramped apartment, but the first-time actors wring pathos from every glance.

Fresh from its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival - and six months after winning two awards at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival - the film is heading to the Birds Eye View film festival for its first screening in the UK.

What challenges did you face getting this film made?

Just to get permission to shoot in the streets, you need the approval of five different governmental bodies. Then I had to negotiate laws forbidding an individual to do the film because as a sole artist you don't have a right to go to the censorship board.

I was telling the head of censorship in Egypt that this is absurd because you are encouraging big tycoons who run the production to monopolise everything. You're urging the youngsters who write films to give away their rights.

After we finished, we formed a collective (Hassala Films) to share our information with other filmmakers and to help launch as many risk-taking feature-length films as possible.

Was it always your plan to focus on very small moments in Coming Forth By Day?

I believe that all stories have been told already. If you're not going to have something different to add then why bother? We should change the way stories are told in Egypt because commercial movies don't reflect our culture. The problem is that we are imitating Hollywood; we are doing films that are not reflecting our lives. But if we encourage more and more filmmakers to do their films, not films for the market, things will change eventually.

The film seems so natural. Was any of the dialogue improvised?

I thought that if we made the actors say a final script it would not be real enough. I knew that we would be doing long takes and if you don't have a private inner world for each actor then it will be so boring to watch these characters in front of the camera for nine minutes at a time.

How did Ahmad Lutfi, a former journalist, get cast in one of the lead roles?

We discovered him by coincidence walking in the street, sent him the script and he said OK.

I was curious to know why he wanted to do the film, knowing that it would be a bit humiliating for a famous guy like him who had worked in newspapers. He said: "I had the same experience with my mother. I'll do the film as an homage to her."

Two months after shooting, he had a stroke and died. Everyone who saw the film, his family and friends, they said he knew. That's why he did the film. He was saying goodbye.

Was the film inspired by your life?

I was working for a year making documentary films for Al Jazeera in Dubai when I found out that my father was sick and that two of my very dear friends were sick with cancer. I felt that it wasn't just me and my loved ones who were suffering from an illness; it was the whole country.

I had this feeling that we were suffocating. Anyone who visited Egypt before the revolution just caught this feeling in the air. It was a huge despair and everyone had the feeling we could not proceed this way. So the film was not intended to be like this but it was something I could not avoid. Losing hope, I could not avoid that.

How did the revolution affect filming?

We stopped filming in July 2010 and got back to the project after the revolution. Actually, the film's original title was The Stroke and after the revolution we had a reference that we wanted to include. The literal title of the Egyptian Book of the Dead is Coming Forth By Day. Borrowing the name meant that even if we are witnessing a death, at some point it might be a new form of life.

Coming Forth By Day will be screened at the Birds Eye View film festival on Saturday

artslife@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National