Namir Abdel Messeeh: The Virgin, the Copts and Me

If all goes wrong, you can always turn to Mother, which is what the director of the film does in the film, when his producer no longer wants to support him. This storytelling tool, including the making of the film in the narrative, a meta plan, works in this case as the film is about a young French filmmaker who, after 15 years, goes back to his Egyptian coptic roots in a village, against the will of the mother, who in the beginning says that ”no members of the family (should be) in the film”. But the help of mum gets the film to be finished, the family members all end up in the film, which adds to the film’s light-hearted entertaining qualities at the same time as it gives a beautiful hommage to people far away from Tahrir Square, in a small village where someone once saw the apparation of Virgin Mary.

For that it is the core of the story, did these apparitions really happen, is there any proof, any documentation? This was what made the director interested, what motivated him to go on a quest among coptic religious people. Especially in 1968 where some film footage could indicate the apparation. He puts an ad in the newspaper, he has people to help him find witnesses, but is does not really give results, when he is in Cairo. So off he goes to mother’s village, ”the french guy”, as they call him, and fine situations are caught between him and his grandmother. Mum leaves France to help the son, mum is not happy, ”c’est un film de merde”, she says, how can you film a miracle. Stubborn Namir decides to create the apparation and deceides to do casting of young women for the role of Virgin Mary. He sets up a very fine, warm and humane atmosphere, and he describes himself in a very funny way with the director (Me) filmed as was he God. Which in a way he is,the director, on the set, and film is magic, isn’t it?

A post scriptum comes up – the producer calls the director to tell him that he can raise funding for the film, if he includes something about the revolution at Tahrir Square… on a personal note, oh yes, this is what ”they”, the broadcasters, want, thanks to the director for giving us something else, non-journalistic. Photo: Son and mother, director and producer.

France, 2011, 85 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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