Mohamed Siam: Amal

The day after the opening of IDFA the director of “Amal”, Egyptian Mohammed Siam met the participants of the IDFA Academy to talk about the film, which they had all seen the night before or that very same morning. Siam was interviewed by the head of the IDFA Bertha Fund, Isabel Arrate Fernandez, and the two were joined on stage by the editor of the film Véronique Lagoarde – Ségot, praised, very well deserved, by the director, who outlined the process of getting to the final film.

“I had filmed 25 hours (in 6 years, ed.) and had started to assemble scenes… when I showed it to Véronique. She said “what the hell is that?”. She pointed to the fact that I had no rhythm skills, I am far too fast when I put things together”. Véronique Lagoarde – Ségot: “It was a beautiful gift, she was so pure, I had first of all to respect her. And to find the rhythm”.

It was a fine interview session, where Siam also referred to his previous film, “Whose Country”. He showed a clip from the film, were the protagonist, who was a policeman during the revolution, talked about the brutalities they performed on those arrested. Terrible! He left the police, “waiting for the justice”. Siam, educated psychologist, characterised the former policeman as a super-ego and Amal as an alter-ego. The two films overlapped time-wise and he thought he could make it into one film, but gave that up. But “the two represent both sides of the same coin. They just want to survive”.

The scoop of the film is the contrasting of the birthday home videos with Amal to the scenes shot during the 6 years, from the revolution and until today. As a child you see the charming little girl perform in front of the camera, full of life, joking and expressing her love to the father behind the camera. The father who passes away – as Siam said – “and at the age of 14 she was able to/ had to find a place for herself, that’s why she wants to join the police”.

There you see her as the obstinate, revolting teenager, boyish, a way to join the male crowds in the street, you see her – fantastic scene – discuss with her mother, who at the election wants to vote for the former Mubarak supporters, and you see her with her boyfriend, who is about to leave her.

As year by year she grows older, I could not help feel sad of watching the happy child Amal get older and have a lot of anger inside her. “She is a child of the revolution”, Siam said, “and Amal means Hope in Arabic”.

A main theme in the film is the male absence. The father dies, the boyfriend is leaving, she is alone in many ways as the film shows so well, built in a chronological way with flashbacks to the birthday videos.

“I wrote the text for the dreams in the beginning and at the end of the film”, Siam said, stressing that the film is very personal for him, who also lost his father at the same age as Amal.

Egypt, 2017, 83 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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