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The Mice Room: When experimental narratives make it to the ticket booth - by Soha Elsirgany for ahramonline,  Saturday 12 Sep 2015
Independent film The Mice Room rises from the underground to the silver screens at Zawya in Cairo and Cinema Amir in Alexandria.

The film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2013, and showed at Brazil’s Sao Paolo International Film Festival in 2014 and Morocco’s Tetouan Mediterranean Film Festival in the same year. It went on to screen internationally in Germany, Bulgaria and Kosovo. The Egypt's premiere took place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in April 2014.

The current screenings at Zawya and Cinema Amir are a milestone, marking a semi-commercial breakthrough for an almost zero budget independant film in the market, as well as being the first venture by Zawya Distribution, something the filmmakers never dreamed would happen when they started off with the project.

A three-year journey is behind The Mice Room, starting with the filmmakers joining a workshop in 2010, where each created a short film with common themes.
As the film contains six narratives, each created by a separate director, The Mice Room is attributed to all six directors; Ahmed Magdy Morsy, Hend Bakr, Mayye Zayed, Mohamad El-Hadidi, Mohamed Zedan and Nermeen Salem.

The Mice Room gets it’s name from a mythical place found in children’s fables; a scary place many Egyptian children grew up being threatened with visiting, if they weren’t behaving. For adults, this scary place can be a state of mind.

Each story is refreshingly original in its characters and its storyline. What links all the distinct narratives together is where they all take place, in Alexandria, and a thread of themes running through them all.
Fear and its different forms, life and death, joy and sadness, and subtle human interactions.
The film incorporates fables, through stories told and stories untold. The opening scene acts as a prologue, with a young girl and boy playing to the recital of a children’s playtime rhyme.

The use of stories come up throughout the film in different ways, one of the particularly interesting conversations in the script comes early on, when the character Amr, who goes to take care of his ailing father, talks to a woman about “The stories behind songs, not the songs with stories in them.”
In another narrative, Rawya, whose husband died recently, walks around her house at night in limbo. After her son complains about her new unsettling nocturnal life, Rawya tells her daughter a fable from folklore, about a town cursed by a witch with eternal day.

The most enigmatic of all is Moussa, an old man whose story remains mysteriously untold as he keeps trying and failing to cross the street, mutely refusing anyone’s assistance.
Many of the characters find solace through connecting with others, showing of how reaching out can help people on their journey. For Moussa, it is a girl who places a chocolate in his pocket, and a newsstand keeper who offers him a chair.

Amr’s uncle shares the story of how his own father died, and how Amr’s father handled it. The uncle then tells Amr to “share it, if there’s something you want to say.”

The characters are created as thoughtful, yet reluctant to express themselves. It is as if there is a sort of muted down tension bottled up in all the narratives, rendering the overall mood serious and heavy.
Another thematic play sensitively done is seen through juxtaposing marriage and wedding days with events of death and sickness.

The film’s cinematography is impressive in quality and approach, executed by El-Hadidi, Zayed and editor Islam Kamal, with refreshing angles and engaging panning shots.
Music links old Arabic songs to the narratives, and a soundtrack by Russian composer Anna Drubich, resembling street sounds and reflecting the psychological state of Moussa.
source: Ahram Online

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