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Ambitious Film Clinic slate shows Egypt's new face

Cairo-based Film Clinic has solidified its status as one of the Arab world’s top production companies with a new slate of internationally oriented films, including a co-production with Fox International Pictures.

While the slate is striking for its stylistic range that defies the stereotypes of Egyptian cinema - it includes a thriller, a drama, a comedy and an action horror film - contemporary political realities also invade the projects’ storylines.

Farsh Wi Ghata (Cover And Mattress) written and directed by Ahmed Abdallah and nearing the final stages of shooting, stars Asser Yasin as an inmate who escapes prison at the height Egyptian Revolution, on the day that thousands defied curfews and gathered in Tahrir Square.

Politics intrude to this day. Abdallah, the director of two award-winning festival hits in Microphone and Heliopolis, is still having trouble getting permission to shoot in one of Cairo’s famous mosques, even though numerous Egyptian films have used mosque locations before the new Islamist regime assumed power after Mubarak.

The restlessness of Cairo during the lead-up to the upheavals, generally referred to as the 25 January Revolution, provides the backdrop for the stories of six couples at different stages of romantic involvement in Maggie Morgan’s Asham. Linking these tales of aspiration, disappointment and joy is Asham, a street peddler whose optimism about a better future reflects the hopes of Egypt.

The only Egyptian film in competition this week at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar, Asham stars Mohamed Khan, one of Egypt’s most celebrated filmmakers, theatre director Mahmoud el Lozy and a cast of young new faces.

International horror websites and fans of the unofficial Splat Pack are already eagerly awaiting Site 146, a US production from director Alexandre Aja and producer Gregory Levasseur, the duo whose writing and filmmaking credits encompass Maniac, Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes and their French breakthrough film Haute Tension.

Site 146 is an action horror film set in Cairo, reportedly involving an unexplored Egyptian tomb and shot in the found footage style. Film Clinic is a co-producer on the film, which is being produced by Silvatar, the LA-based production company that has been deeply involved in the development of stereoscopic 3D technology. Fox International Pictures, the international production umbrella unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment is co-financing the film and will distribute.

Rounding out the current production slate is comedy 69 Meedan El Messaha (69 El Mesaha Square), directed by Ayten Amin, whom Film Clinic president Mohamed Hefzy had previously worked with on the documentary Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad & The Politician.

Co-produced with Middle West films, Amin’s story revolves around the character Hussein, a 62-year-old snobbish yet charming ladies man confined to his home because of illness.

Film Clinic’s plan is to produce and co-produce about four films per year. “The idea is to make films that cross borders but also films that succeed within Egypt and the Arab world,” said Hefzy. “Film Clinic is always looking for projects by new or emerging directors that help grow the revolutionary movement here, while at the same time attaining public and commercial success within the region and beyond.”

Film Clinic will also be producing director and screenwriter Amr Salama’s new film La Moakhza (currently retitled to Al Hesa Al Oula), which is set to begin shooting in February 2013. The film is about a Coptic child who fears discrimination among his classmates and decides to hide his Egyptian Christian heritage.

Egyptian actors Ahmed Fahmy, Hesham Maged and Chiko, a popular comedic troupe known collectively as The Trio, are currently writing a new film, and in collaboration with Film Clinic, aim to begin shooting in January 2013.

Hefzy attended the 6th Abu Dhabi Film Festival this month as a jury member in the Documentary Competition. In addition, he received the Best Producer in the Arab World Award from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last year in 2011.

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