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In his striking feature debut, Ahmad Abdalla draws back the veil of faded grandeur from Cairo's luxurious Heliopolis district to reveal stories that deepen and broaden our understanding of one of the world’s great cities.
Cairo is a city immersed in ancient culture, which makes the Heliopolis district—colloquially known as New Cairo—an anomaly. Designed in 1905, it was intended to be spacious, sleek and luxurious, the face of a new, modern Egypt; it’s now the home of the presidential palace. In his striking feature debut, Ahmad Abdalla draws back the area’s veil of faded grandeur to reveal stories that deepen and broaden our understanding of one of the world’s great cities. Adopting a choral structure whereby characters and scenes echo and amplify each other, Abdalla follows a man trying to get a travel visa from the Canadian embassy; a hotel receptionist simmering in longing for the world beyond her front desk; a soldier posted outside a walled compound; and an elegant matron who shields her Jewish identity from her neighbours. Through contrasting portraits of unmet desire, Heliopolis
explores how a single neighbourhood can evoke the manifold complications and frustrations of modern Egypt.