Screening: Ein Shams (The Eye of the Sun)

November 28, 2011

Join AAFSC and Alwan for the Arts for a free screening of Ein Shams (The Eye of the Sun) on December 15th at 7:00 PM at 150 Court Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

Egypt, 2008, 90 mins, Arabic with English ST

From once being the capital of Egypt during the Pharaonic era and a sacred location marked by the visit of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, Ein Shams has become one of Cairo’s poorest and most neglected neighborhoods. Through the eyes of Shams, an 11-year-old girl inhabitant of this neighborhood, the film captures the sadness and magic that envelops everyday life in Egypt. In a series of heart-rending events, the diverse characters of the film showcase the intricacies of Egypt’s political system and social structure, and give a glimpse into the grievances of the Middle East region and the complex relationships of its nations.

‘Eye of the Sun’ had an interesting path to the Cairo screens. The director, Ibrahim El-Batout, shot it with a digital camera on a low budget. He did no provide a script to Culture Ministry authorities as required by Egyptian censorship laws. The movie was transferred to 35-millimetre film by the Moroccan Cinema Centre, a government-sponsored institute, and after much haggling, El-Batout said the censor has allowed ‘Eye of the Sun’ to be shown as a foreign film.

Winner of the Golden Tauro at the Taormina Film Festival and the Golden Hawk award at the Rotterdam Festival.

Ibrahim El Batout has worked as a director, producer and cameraman on numerous documentaries for international TV channels including ZDF (Germany), TBS (Japan), and ARTE (France). He has won a number of awards across Europe for his work. El Batout’s debut fiction feature was ‘Ithaki’ (2005, NYASAFF 2007 selection). ‘Ein Shams’ (2008) is his second film. For more information visit:

“In August 1988, I went to Ein Shams with my camera to document the riots against the police. In a confrontation with a policeman, I was shot on my right arm. This incident became the first of a series of distressing and violent events I observed and captured as a war documentary maker. In the 18 years that followed, I filmed 12 wars in over 30 countries. I was shot again when in June 1993 in Bosnia, yet I continued my work believing that pictures portraying the horrors of wars would make a difference. In the beginning of 2004, after completing a documentary on mass graves in Iraq, I returned in Cairo feeling disenchanted by the world and my work. The world of fiction films reinstated my love for the camera and became a venue through which I could explore the realistic style and serious subject matter characteristic of documentary making with the magic and playfulness of fictional storytelling. In 2005 I completed my first featured film Ithaki. Shot digitally and with no budget, this film received a warm welcome by audiences and rendered palpable the burgeoning market for films that are independent, experimental and bold. With Ein Shams I hope to take my fiction work a step further by making it available to wider audiences in Egypt and abroad.

Ein Shams was inspired by an encounter in September 2005. At the time I had just finished my first fiction film Ithaki and was involved in a project teaching children living in Upper Egypt how to use the art of theatre and filmmaking. Mohamed Adel Fatah, a teacher and a director who was also participating in the project, put forward the idea of positioning my next film in his neighborhood, Ein Shams. Mohamed also offered to assist me with access to people and locations. Being a place that has long haunted and fascinated me, I took up his evocation and I wrote a story that was appropriate for Ein Shams. In this film I use footage from my last visit in Iraq, thus bringing to full circle my documentary work that was marked by my first project in the Ein Shams neighborhood almost 20 years ago.”

Director’s Visual Concept:

”I work with a form that blends documentary and fiction genres to accentuate the uncomfortable yet enchanting reality of everyday life. The film embraces the natural warm colours of Cairo to convey to the audience the mood of the city that is mirrored in the film. Ein Shams captures my commitment to exploring alternative styles of cinematic expression made possible by digital media. In the absence of big budgets and technical equipment, I employ the resources made available to me. The film combines natural settings and events with staged performances and employs both trained and non-professional actors and technical crew.”

The intention of this film series and collaboration between Alwan and The Arab American Family Support Center is to provide film screenings outside of Alwan’s traditional locales in an attempt to engage diverse communities and expose a multiplicity of audiences to Arab culture. The curatorial hypothesis of the series, which showcases the missions of both sponsoring institutions, is meant to assert the primacy and absolute relevance of the social in aesthetic representation. The selected films highlight social issues that are of concern to the public at large and particularly pertinent to the Arab community. While understandably a good portion of the films are from the Arab world, they are works that address issues of migration, mobility, family relations, and gender, to name but a few themes that are at once universally paradigmatic and intensely anchored to the historical narrative of the nascent Arab American community. Other film selections will be of emerging Arab American talent which naturally dwells on questions of identity, integration, nostalgia, all in all critically examining the formation of the hyphenated Arab-American who is the core recipient of services provided by Alwan and The Arab American Family Support Center.