Winter of Discontent picked as Egypt’s Oscar contender

Ibrahim El Batout’s drama to represent Egypt as foreign language Oscar submission


Winter of Discontent picked as Egypt’s Oscar contender

Egypt has selected Ibrahim El Batout’s eye-opening drama Winter of Discontent, about the events that led up to the Tahrir Square uprising, as its candidate for the foreign-language film Academy Award race.

The significant choice comes with the country in protracted turmoil amid the crackdown on Islamists that has followed the ouster by the military of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. It was made by an independently nominated committee named by the Egyptian Cinema Centre, which is controlled by the Ministry of Culture.

Winter of Discontent is a raw depiction of torture during the Hosni Mubarak regime and attempts by the secret police to quash the 2011 Egyptian revolution. It is the first production from Cairo-based Zad, launched by Egyptian multi hyphenate Amr Waked and represented in the first South Mediterranean distributors’ network MEDIS established in Dubai in 2012.

The film bowed at Venice in 2012 and has travelled widely since then. In 2012, Winter of Discontent toured international festivals where it encountered great success. It screened at the London Film Festival, the Stockholm Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival, where it received two prizes, at the Cairo International Film Festival, where the film won a Special Jury Prize, and at the Dubai Film Festival, where Amr Waked won Best Actor.

The film also screened at the European Parliament last November, thanks to Euromed Audiovisual.

“This is a politically reassuring choice,” said Waked. “Without January 25 [Tahrir Square] we would not have June 30  [the date when millions demanded Morsi’s resignation],” he explained. Waked, like many Egyptian artists, supports the military crackdown.

“Artistically, we are very proud. It’s a work we put so much energy into, and this adds to the fact that all our efforts to make this film were not made in vain,” he added.

Waked, who is known internationally for roles in Syriana, House of Saddam, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, toplines Winter of Discontent as a tortured computer whiz.

Released in March in Egyptian film theatres, Winter of Discontent had an eight-week local run, which is unusually long for an arthouse movie in the country. It was released by the distributor known as The Trio (Al Massa, Oscar and El Nasr).

Egypt in 2012 skipped submitting a contender for the foreign-language film Oscar race due to the post-revolutionary chaos.

In 2011 the country submitted Khaled El Hagar’s Lust, about a poor family in a down-and-out neighborhood of Alexandria and the frustration of everyday Egyptians trying to make ends meet in pre-revolutionary Egypt.

Nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014 and the ceremony will be held March 2 at the Dolby Theatre.

Source: Variety, Euromed Audiovisual

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