In the last days of the city is a poem, longing for a city that is no longer there. It is an introspective journey through the eyes of Khalid, a documentary filmmaker trying to capture the beauty and ugliness of Cairo in 2009. A complex narrative, romantic yet full of tension, constantly on the verge of death; as the characters struggle with daily life the film raises vital questions about living in the Middle East, and shows that you simply can’t live in a place like Egypt without being political. Fiction documentary and reality merge and mix like three ingredients in a cooking pan. For starters you have the Egyptian radio playing in the background, dominant and crucial, having a significant role in reminding you of the reality behind the place and time the film is set in. We can constantly feel the revolution creeping in, the hints of the Arab spring. In addition to that layer of reality, you are forced to question your consciousness yet again, as the film intercuts between the documentary film Khalid is making and the actual film you are watching about Khalid. It’s an incredibly well crafted film. Director, Tamer El Said uses a very stylistic language to tell the story, playing with cinematic elements such as jump cuts and continuing a dialogue or monologue over a shot of a person when they are not speaking. He brings us closer to the character’s truth in this way- allows us to concentrate on the sub-text.
In the Last Days of the City, also deals with the struggle of a documentary film-maker to capture his surroundings and this is even more challenging for Khalid and his 3 filmmaker friends, one from Baghdad, one from Beirut and the other, an Iraqi refugee, living in Berlin; all from conflict-afflicted countries, they have a love-hate relationship with their nation. They love their countries and yet the violence and destruction around them is an unavoidable burden. As filmmakers, they are faced with the never-ending question of how to disconnect from reality to tell a story when horrors are happening before your eyes. In a post-modern fashion I can’t help but feel it is director Tamer El Said behind the voices of the characters in the film, asking those questions of himself; all this might sound complicated and unattractive but Tamer captures a sensitive and global tale of humanity at its most vulnerable. On the brink of a breakup, taking care of his dying mother, moving home, trying to make a documentary film- these are emotional enough roller-coasters for one person to take in without having to deal with the basic foundations of your country crumbling under your feet. When you are going through this much turbulence in your life, you count on your city to lift you up and give you strength. But Khalid’s break-up story is parallel to the story of having to say goodbye to his city. It’s a poetic film about loss and despair but it’s also a contemporary story of life, as lived by many around the world today.
In the last days of the city will be screening as part of Film Africa 2016 on Saturday 5th November.