Microphone: The Alternative Revolution
Khaled Abol NagaMenna Shalabi...
In 1 Cinema
Microphone is as much
a drama as it is a documentary, one detailing a movement’s frustration with
passive oppression. Egypt’s vibrant art scene that inspired the making of Microphone is at the front and centre.
It’s not fighting to be heard or to express itself; the movement is fighting
against prejudice, profiling and for the tiniest breathing room.
Set in the city of Alexandria
with a cast of local artists and actors, most of whom are playing themselves on
screen, Microphone starts with Khaled
(Abol Naga) joining an art collective. Having just returned to his home city
after living in the US for almost a decade, Khaled is filled with a mixture of
enthusiasm, hope and naïveté that leads him to foster a number of young and aspiring
Alexandrian artists and to promise his support.
Khaled inadvertently halts a funding deal for his art
collective after convincing the fostering foundation to build a venue for the
local bands instead. His decision leaves Hany (Adel), his colleague and
oldest friend, feeling deeply betrayed. Not only does his friend turn against him, but Khaled keeps facing
obstacles in red tape and bureaucracy, slowly realising the reality of the
Khaled’s struggle is mostly
used as a framing device to hold together the stories of the local artists,
which are all based on their real lives and personal struggles. The film also
keeps jumping back to a meeting between Khaled and his former girlfriend
(Shalabi). Their confrontational discussions thematically anchor Microphone, adding a dramatic depth to
the film. These discussions are also very engaging as they bring Khaled’s
dreamy illusions as a character to the surface and are passionately delivered
by both Abol Naga and Shalabi.
actors come off less articulated, but the raw energy of their performances carries
them along and deepens the docudrama reality of the film. Director Ahmad
Abdallah paints his characters with the same personal intimacy exhibited in his
debut Heliopolis; but this
time, the stories are a lot more focused and more organically intertwined.
Microphone teeters a
little when it zooms out to show the larger picture. Then, its singular and romanticised
vantage point loses a bit of its power. For the most part, Microphone remains a finely realised study of Egypt’s cultural frustration
and the mixed feelings
that our community has against progression. The film gets its point across
without a hint of sorrow; but with giddiness, style and unconquerable