Festival name: Sundance Film Festival
Where? Park City, Utah, United States of America
When? 19th – 29th January 2017
The Nile Hilton Incident
Directed by Tarik Saleh
Cairo police detective Noredin Mustafa is an ordinary corrupt cop. He’s handed the case of a singer found murdered in a Nile Hilton hotel room and soon discovers the dead woman’s secret relationship with the hotel owner—a wealthy developer and member of parliament. While searching for the only witness, an undocumented Sudanese maid, he’s abruptly ordered to close the case. But Noredin continues, and the investigation leads to an “untouchable” elite who runs the country, immune from justice.
Tarik Saleh’s (Metropia) third feature is a riveting Egypt-inflected noir with the requisite corruption, cynicism, smoking, and forsaken city, where everyone wants their cut. Set on the eve of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, it shrewdly twists the genre to examine political power, decadence, and life on the margins. Its unlikely hero, Noredin, is a hard-drinking, divorced loner who lives off dirty money. But as his father says, “You can’t buy dignity.” Can a corrupt cop mete out justice? Ultimately, Noredin’s moral struggle is overtaken by history. Where in noir corruption breeds corruption, here it breeds revolution.
Last Men in Aleppo
Directed by Steen Johannessen
Nowhere is the human toll of Syria’s ongoing civil war more brutally manifest than in the lives of Aleppo’s “White Helmets”—first responders to the devastating bombing and terrorist attacks that have pushed this city to the brink of collapse. Volunteers Khaled, Mahmoud, and Subhi rush toward bomb sites while others run away. They search through collapsed buildings for the living and dead. Contending with fatigue, dwindling ranks, and concerns for their families’ safety, they must decide whether to stay or to flee a city in ruins.
An unforgettable portrait of reluctant heroes, Last Men in Aleppo employs a strict vérité approach but unfolds like a classical tragedy. A collaboration between Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad, Danish filmmaker Steen Johannessen, and the Aleppo Media Center, it’s a patchwork of resonant moments—some horrifying (pulling lifeless infants from the rubble), others improbably hopeful (playing a makeshift soccer game, building a fishpond, driving kids to a playground during a ceasefire). Together they are a testament to mankind’s capacity for unspeakable atrocity and an ode to courage and compassion.
The Good Postman
Directed by Tonislav Hristov
On the eastern edge of Bulgaria, bordering Turkey, amid wizened orchards and an ancient patchwork of farmlands, sits a poor and sleepy hamlet that time seems to have forgotten. Despite the sparse population of silver-haired citizens wistful for the brighter days of communism, democracy is in full force as the village prepares in earnest for its mayoral election. Meanwhile, an endless train of Syrian refugees bound for Europe silently traipses through the rural terrain, visible through the binoculars of one gentle and taciturn candidate, the postman.
Told through indelible, lush images, this quietly cinematic film exposes seismic divisions regarding immigration and what it means to be European in an age of global displacement and shifting political systems. With dry humour and remarkable sensitivity toward its beguiling ensemble of characters, Tonislav Hristov’s documentary plays like a scripted narrative, with the postman as the film’s grounding hero—a man who sees encroaching darkness not in the desperate exiles filing across his land, but in his own increasingly closed-off and distrustful town.
Sami Blood (Sameblod)
Directed by Amanda Kernell
Since its award-winning premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, Sami Blood has played to acclaim at festivals around the world. We are happy to welcome Amanda Kernell back with this feature expansion of her short film Northern Great Mountain, which played at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
In 1930s Sweden, Elle-Marja and her sister Njenna are taken from their indigenous reindeer-breeding family and sent to a Sámi-only boarding school where they are subjected to locals’ taunts and the indignities of race-based physical examinations. While Njenna clings to her cultural traditions, Elle-Marja urges her to speak Swedish and try harder to assimilate. As she realizes how deeply she is judged as inferior, the bright, curious Elle-Marja feels driven to reject her Sámi heritage and stake out a future of her own.
In her feature debut, Kernell depicts a little-known piece of Swedish history with tenderness, melancholy, and intimacy. Young actress Lene Cecilia Sparrok heartbreakingly embodies the quiet devastation that fuels Elle-Marja’s steely determination to forge a different path after being confronted with her own otherness.