Sometimes movies are overtaken by events, fictional movies less so but, as we’ve seen with the ever fascinating Jafar Panahi, sometimes fiction captured during significant events can be every bit as powerful as documentary. Debut director Tamer El Said’s meandering In The Last Days of The City takes place during 2009. The Arab spring is in its infancy but something is stirring on the streets of Cairo and this adds a friction to filmmaker Khalid Abdalla’s difficulties as he attempts to complete his movie and just get on with his life.
In truth, much like Panahi’s This Is Not a Movie, context is everything in order to make this movie stand out. But it’s that contrast between Abdalla’s day to day and the rising tension in the background that makes this an interesting movie to behold. Abdalla is nobody particularly special but his travails as he socialises with friends from other Arab states (each with different concerns) and attempts to deal with the breakup of his relationship and subsequent house hunting are compelling nonetheless.
El Said’s movie manages to be both personal and expansive in the same breath. Abdalla’s friends all have very separate worries about the direction their gulf nations are following but they are brought together and it’s enlightening to spend time with them as they try to continue normal life in the face of events they have no control over. The script is intelligent and manages to be witty whilst tackling the mundane and although we never really go anywhere the sense of unfolding events juxtaposed on daily life is impressive.