x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 August 2017

Documentary Cairo Jazzman traces Egyptian composer Amr Salah’s musical journey

First-time filmmaker Atef Ben Bouzid’s affectionate portrait follows Salah in the three weeks leading up to the Cairo Jazz Festival, which he organises.

Director Atef Ben Bouzid, left, with the film’s editor and co-producer Sebastian Leitner. Photo by Dirk Eichler
Director Atef Ben Bouzid, left, with the film’s editor and co-producer Sebastian Leitner. Photo by Dirk Eichler

The title of Cairo Jazzman, a documentary that had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last week, refers to Amr Salah, an Egyptian composer and musician with a passion for jazz.

First-time filmmaker Atef Ben Bouzid’s affectionate portrait follows Salah in the four weeks leading up to the Cairo Jazz Festival, which he organises.

The film certainly showcases amazing music, but also the charismatic Salah’s struggle with a tiny budget and minimal assistance from public bodies.

“People need music that makes them think, and not the canned music on the radio,” is how Salah describes the appeal of jazz in the opening moments of the film.

While Tahrir Square and the political upheaval the country has experienced are never mentioned directly, the film reflects, through the challenges with which Salah is confronted while organising his festival, many of the daily problems and struggles the Egyptian people face, particularly the younger generation.

The premiere took place in a concert hall, where a large, occasionally rowdy crowd were enthralled not only by the documentary, but a post-movie concert given by Tunisian artist Nabil Khemir. He plays the Rayjam, a novel stringed instrument that combines an oud with an electric guitar.

In attendance were both Salah and Berlin-based Ben Bouzid.