The Mice Room (Odet el Feran): Dubai Review

Serious story-telling is about the only thing that unites these short stories.

Short films by six young directors are interwoven in tales from Alexandria, Egypt.

Six new Egyptian directors hatch together in The Mice Room, a feature film interweaving half a dozen everyday stories set in Alexandria. There is no real thematic thread, however, other than what viewers can piece together on their own. Editor Islam Kamal deserves credit for making this project work at all, but it remains a compendium of six short films cleverly strung together, with limited appeal outside local fests.  

Producing as well as writing and directing are Nermeen Salem, Mohamed Zedan, Mohamad El-Hadidi, Mayye Zayed, Hend Bakr, Ahmed Magdy Morsy.

A film with this mysterious a title (never explained) could have offered something a little more off the beaten track. Three and a half years in the making, it understandably has little to do with recent political events. Yet each episode contains some nice moments of closely observed characters and relationships that shows talent behind the camera.

The most memorable story is probably the one that features acclaimed actress Hanan Youssef as a new widow who disturbs the household by sleeping all day and staying awake at night. In another story, a young man (Zeyad Salem) tries to make up for lost time with his dying father (Moustafa Darwish). More surreally, an eccentric elderly man in his pajamas (Kamal Ismail) stands on the sidewalk all day smiling, gazing across traffic at the Mediterranean sea. A girl (Noura Saafan) seems paralyzed with fright as her wedding day approaches, while a career girl (Nihad Yahia) eagerly gets ready to leave the country.

Getting the most laughs with its gentle humor is a small girl (Malak Magdy) concerned for her aged granny, who has just had an operation. Her childish capers in the mosque, while the old women recite the Quran, offer one of the film’s freshest and most unexpected moments.

Venue: Dubai Film Festival (Muhr Arab Feature competition), Dec. 8, 2013.
Production companies: Rufy’s in association with Fig Leaf Studios, Enjaaz
Cast:  Hanan Youssef, Moustafa Darwish, Noura Saaffan, Nihad Yahia, Kamal Ismail, Malak Magdy, Zeyad Salem
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Nermeen Salem, Mohamed Zedan, Mohamad El-Hadidi, Mayye Zayed, Hend Bakr, Ahmed Magdy Morsy
Executive producer: Mark Lotfy
Directors of photography: Mohamad El-Hadid, Mayye Zayed, Islam Kamal
Production designers: Nehal Ghanem, Emad Maher, Nermeen Salem, Sara Hany
Editor: Islam Kamal
Music: Anna Drubich
No rating, 85 minutes.

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