Director: Ahmed Abdalla
Starring: Khaled Abol Naga, Menna Shalabi, Yousra El Lozy and Ahmad Madgy
It's fascinating to watch Microphone in light of the Tahrir Square demonstrations and the overthrow of the former president Hosni Mubarak. Abdalla's project won the Best Arab narrative film award at the Cairo International Film Festival in December last year just weeks before demonstrators took to the streets calling for democracy and change in Egypt. The story is ostensibly about the odyssey of Khaled (Abol Naga) as he returns to Alexandria after spending seven years working as an engineer in the US, his romance, love of music and frustrations. Yet, more importantly, it is what he discovers back home – a youth wanting to change society, to put on a music concert but thwarted at every turn by the mechanisms of a devious administration – that make the story. In addition to musicians, Khaled comes into contact with graffiti artists and filmmakers. One pair of characters Salma (El Lozy) and Magdy (Magdy) want to shoot the local bands with a secret camera hidden in a shoebox, believing it to be the most unobtrusive way of capturing reality. Abdalla edited Heliopolis and like that film, Microphone works best when it portrays the vibrancy of the streets, often shown as the backdrop to music-led montages. While the mix of art and politics is fascinating, the narrative is occasionally let down by a poor plot and characterisations.