Ruba Nadda’s new film Cairo Time is about an American magazine editor named “Juliette” (played by Patricia Clarkson) who travels to Cairo for a vacation with her husband “Mark” (Tom McCamus). But Mark never shows up, throwing her into a romance with local man named “Tareq” (Alexander Siddig).
Altho Clarkson does a lovely job conveying the multiple emotions of a middle-aged woman suddenly on her own in strange circumstances, the film is a narrative mess, & I hated it.
But I’m guessing some people will think I don’t like Cairo Time mainly because of one very negative scene featuring Israelis, so let me confront this head on…
BUT FIRST, SPOILER ALERT!
OK, still with me? Mark supposedly works for the U.N. & the reason he’s not at the Cairo airport when Juliette arrives is because there’s some kind of unspecified “trouble in Gaza.” So Juliette does her best to wait patiently for him in Cairo, hoping that the U.N. will only need him onsite at the refugee camp in Gaza for a few more days. But more days pass and Mark is supposedly still in Gaza, so Juliette decides, quite impulsively of course, to go find Mark in Gaza, without planning this with him in advance.
Juliette boards the bus in Cairo (sitting next to a young woman with sad eyes who eventually involves her in yet another dead-end plot loop), & there they are, chatting away on the bus, when suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, they’re stopped by a group of Israeli soldiers. The Israelis board the bus, rudely demand papers from all the passengers, & pull Juliette (& only Juliette) off the bus. “This bus isn’t going anywhere,” the young Israeli commander barks, “Call someone to come pick you up.” Cut to scene of Juliette & Tareq driving back to Cairo in the dead of night…
Excuse me, but just exactly where is this scene taking place?!? In the middle of the Sinai Dessert?!? My cynical conclusion: Mark’s only “in Gaza” so Nadda can insert a completely impossible scene beating up on Israelis for the Gaza blockade. Sorry, Nadda. The soldiers who patrol the Sinai now are all Egyptians; no Israelis would be anywhere in the vicinity until the bus arrived at a border crossing.
But, readers, let me be clear about this: my own “suspension of disbelief” had dissipated long before Juliette unwisely boarded her ill-fated bus!
Tourist Fantasia: Strolling around the pyramids at sunset
with absolutely no other tourists anywhere in view. Ha!
Photo Credit: Colm Hogan courtesy of IFC Films.