Maggie Marjan: Digital platforms are an important gateway to documentaries

Maggie Marjan: Digital platforms are an important gateway to documentaries

The Egyptian director noted the difficulty of presenting non-commercial works

Egyptian director Maggie Morgan said that showing her long documentary film “From and to Meer” on the “Netflix” network allowed a large audience outside Egypt to watch the film that she filmed over 12 years, noting in her interview with “Asharq Al-Awsat” that she went to visit her grandmother’s village in Upper Egypt, turning the visit into her documentary film, which presents true stories from Upper Egypt about the villagers, with all their dreams and frustrations.

The film “From and to Mir” presents a different image from the documentary film, attracting the audience from its first scene, in which the director reveals the reasons for her delayed trip to her ancestral village. (Upper Egypt), which I have always heard about from her grandmother’s conversations to visit the family home, which remained – despite the migration and dispersal of its residents – a witness to a time gone by with all its characters and events, and her discovery of the old palace turns into a trip inside the village, following the family of a Roman child since his childhood with his sense of comedy and his fat body Then, as a young man, before losing his life as a result of poisoning, the director shares the simple people of the village in their sorrows and holidays, to monitor the efforts of most of them to emigrate outside Egypt. The film is shown on the “Netflix” network in ten films under the title “Because They are Creative,” including fictional and documentary films signed by Arab female directors.

Maggie Morgan’s journey in the film turned from the private to the general, while all her goal was to visit the village of her ancestors, as she found herself concerned with everything that affects humans in it, as she asserts, “The transformation took place by chance, but I am happy that it happened. Personally, I was thinking about the film from a personal perspective, but the place and the people opened up wider horizons for me, and I began to think about these people in all the details of their lives, and at the stage of editing I was at a loss; Do I put my story with the film or exclude it? I put it just to show why I came here.”

Marjan chose her heroes from the residents of the village who face the camera for the first time, yet they speak spontaneously and naturally without being preoccupied with the atmosphere of photography, which she explains, saying: “The team working with me contributed to this, as they worked with great love, led by director of photography Zaki Aref, no There is no doubt that the character of the director of photography differs greatly from the person standing in front of him. In one of the scenes, one of the women (Umm Mukhtar) was talking about her son who had died, so Aref stopped filming to kiss her head, so the people of the village felt familiarity and reassurance, which was reflected in their response to us.

Filming the movie “From and to Mir” took 12 years, during which the director undertook to produce it at her own expense: “I produced it not out of desire, but because the picture was not clear to me from the beginning, and it is not a large production, but it is expensive anyway, and I started filming it. In 2008, and within two years, I used to go to the village every few months, then I stopped filming in 2011 due to the outbreak of the January revolution, and when I learned of the death of a Romanian child due to poisoning, I felt the need to return to complete filming in 2020.”

The viewer touches the spirit of the novelist in the film, which the director reveals, saying: “I do not like the stereotypical image of documentaries that are accompanied by an audio tape in classical Arabic, and I wanted to present a different format. .

The film participated in a number of festivals, and Marjan wanted to have its first show at the Aswan Women’s Film Festival in Upper Egypt. At the Cyprus Festival, he also won the Jury Prize at the National Film Festival, and participated in the Cairo Film Industry Days, but showing it on the “Netflix” platform had another impact on Maggie Marjan: “I was hoping to show it in the village of Mir, and I couldn’t because there was a movie theater there. And the Netflix show came, and made it possible to watch it on a very wide scale, and since its launch, I have received messages and communications from audiences in different countries, which is a positive aspect of the emergence of platforms that allowed the distribution of films worldwide, although I love watching films in cinemas.

Marjan directed her first feature film, “Asham” in 2013, and directed a number of short fiction films, including “On the Map” and “Match on Air”.

The director has been working on her feature film project “Ana and Laila” for some time, for which she received support from the Cairo Film Festival. She says: “Making a film that does not belong to commercial cinema faces great difficulties, not only in productivity, but in the presence of a team that believes in experience, I am currently working on the last version of it with the writer Maryam Naoum through a (narration) workshop, and I wrote the film, which takes place in Alexandria through an old woman, whose old building is decided to be removed, and she demands that it be evacuated and the residents.”

Morgan studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, but after graduating and obtaining her master’s degree, she traveled to Canada, where most of her family resides, and studied cinema there, but decided to return to Cairo to make her films, and teach cinema at the American University.



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