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Ahmad Abdalla's "Microphone" Screens in San Francisco on April 22, 24, 27

Ahmad Abdalla’s "Microphone" is screening as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival on April 22, 24, 27. For info, tickets:


Ahmad Abdalla’s thrilling second feature is a tribute to Egyptian underground art, especially music, but also graffiti, independent film and really any kind of creative expression. It’s both a love and hate letter to Alexandria and its thriving youth movement. The film follows a number of local scenesters but focuses mainly on Khaled, an engineer recently back in Alexandria after several years in America. He’s finding the transition tough: His former girlfriend has moved on and his job can’t keep his interest. He is a music fan, however, and his dream of putting on a concert leads him to a world of DIY musicians, artists and filmmakers. This crew provides the film’s backbone—and soundtrack. Great music courses through from the opening credits—mainly hip-hop but also metal, pop and other genres. Meanwhile, there’s a constant tension between the artists and the state. Each band vies for government funding and a spot on a government-sponsored showcase, but each is told their music is too obscene or too critical of the state. It’s impossible not to watch all this in the context of post-Mubarak Egypt, and while this film was made well before recent events (and is very much an Alexandria story), the elements of a young people’s revolution are all here. They’re fed up, and frustration feeds their art. Abdalla interweaves elements of cinema verité, and the film feels like a potent slice of Alexandrian life in all its vibrancy and frustration.

—Benjamin Friedland

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