Coming Forth by Day, and an interview with director Hala Lotfy

Facing the future and present at once, Coming Forth By Day takes us through the excruciating metaphor of complex simplicity that is the life of Suad, who cares for her sick father with the (kind-of) help from her mother. Simple hopes for the day like getting out of the house have to be put on an indefinite shelf, as Suad's slow and claustrophobic day of responsibilities eats at her precious hours. Once out in the city at last, one can't help but feel a sense of uncertainty for Suad, wondering whether her present life at home holds up a steady mirror against her future.

Drawing its title from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, this film is a beautiful and sober look at the responsibilities and the hurt that keep us in the present, and the glimmers of possibility that keep us in tomorrow. Director Hala Lotfy's style uses very long takes, sometimes uncomfortable silences and seemingly mundane activities that paint an exact picture of the moments that make up Suad's current life story. It was a pleasure to get some more insight into the film from Hala via mailterview!

CR: In previous interviews, you mentioned that getting permission to film on the streets was among the biggest challenges in making Coming Forth by Day. What was the most rewarding part about making the film?

HL: For me this film is very personal, it is about the moment I realized how we live in despair through out the whole course of our lives. I felt very helpless. I wanted to pay homage to those who live in despair without even realizing it. The most rewarding part about making this film is its completion in the first place. At some point I thought it will remain unfinished for a thousand reasons. We already stopped shooting before the revolution, and when we resumed it, it was because we believed that this is the way we make the revolution happen, our revolution I mean.

CR:You have a very slow, meditative style in telling this story that gives the whole thing a dream-like atmosphere. Yet, it is also a painfully real portrayal of so many things -- parents getting older, women and the home, etc. Why did you choose to tell the story this way and not in a more tense or dramatic style?

HL: I used long takes because it is bare ... I hate tricks; filmmaking tricks kill me, it is a way of maneuvering something I wanted to face as rough, painful as it is. That's why I didn't add anything to the simple storyline. There is no music as well. I wanted for the film to look like the life I know, and as I experienced. The slow long takes imitate real life  and the usual base of such a story day by day.

CR: There is nothing about the actors that alludes to their being first-timers! How did you assemble such a powerful cast?

HL: All the actors in the film are not professionals, as part of me hates tricks so much, I hate professional
actors. They can give you a frozen, yet good, performance. They can survive acting painful scenes without being really involved emotionally. I wanted to have real people in front of the camera, because if you kept it rolling for 10 minutes, they should put something from their souls and not fake it. Any actor in this film should have an inner world to survive a nine-minute shot without saying much.

CR: What made you decide to incorporate the Book of the Dead into the story?

HL: The book of dead was there very early. Death is so hard to accept, unless you look at it as a way of transformation and not as something final. I was trying to convince myself that this can't be the end. All the loved ones I lost are still there, and I can out reach them by filming my pain and helplessness. It was my way of being optimistic over such a subject.

CR: What kind of reactions have you received about the film, and have audiences mentioned identifying with one character over another?

HL: Mostly the audiences that watched the film loved it. In Europe, they admire the storytelling techniques,  the cinematography and the sound design. But the Arabic audience identifies with it in a more personal way, they used to refer to the drama of the film as a metaphor of the life in Egypt before the revolution. Some more advanced readings of the film refer to the quest of death itself in a philosophical way, yet usually some audiences come and hug me very tenderly and say they lived that misery for some time, and they found it very uplifting to watch the same feelings again from a different point of view.

CR: What inspires you to make film? What other projects are coming up for you?

HL: What inspires me to make films is the desire of expressing the feelings of the muted people I belong to. I love to show their elegance and nobility through their pain. My next project I'm writing is a drama about a mother who loses her 10-year-old son as they're passing a bridge by night, and her five hours of overwhelm afterwards. It is based on a true story.

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For more on Hala and Coming Forth By Day, visit the film's Wordpress site here. My thanks again to Hala!

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