Not lengthy into the brand new documentary Free Trip to Egypt, its producer and creator Tarek Mounib dons a Make America Great Again cap earlier than making his pitch at a 2017 Trump rally.
Mounib asks: Would anybody like to take a free trip to Egypt and see what life is like in an Islamic nation?
Not that surprisingly, a cartoonish, microphone-wielding Donald Trump impersonator shoots down Mounib’s provide. So do a succession of Trump supporters. In these moments, it’s unsure whether or not Mounib is extra like that unimaginable dreamer Don Quixote, or Borat, the satirical character who skewered American small-mindedness in Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 movie.
But Free Trip to Egypt, which begins a week-long run on the ByTowne on Friday, isn’t that form of film. Nor is Mounib, who grew up in Ottawa, out to condemn Islamophobes who look down at Muslims like himself.
Rather, Mounib, a well-intentioned novice when it comes to filmmaking, wished to foster some understanding and human connection the place little to none existed, between a handful of Muslim-shy Americans and their Egyptian hosts. Spoiler: he succeeded, as his intriguing and finally uplifting movie exhibits.
Mounib, a software program entrepreneur who lives in Zurich, Switzerland, says the eureka second for his venture got here whereas he was driving a tram close to the tip of 2016, following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
“I was feeling myself becoming really afraid of where the world was going, and starting to fear Americans and fear the trajectory of where the whole world was headed,” Mounib says.
“Then I realized I don’t want to start fearing people, I don’t want to start judging people,” Mounib says. “What could I do instead of pointing fingers at these people and being angry at them? Why don’t I offer them something kind and move toward them instead of away from them?”
Because of his success within the tech sector — the Carleton University grad and former Nortel Networks worker has two software program corporations in Switzerland — Mounib took it upon himself to finance journeys for some Americans prepared to journey to Egypt and have their experiences filmed.
Egypt was Mounib’s pure vacation spot as a result of whereas he’s Halifax-born, his mother and father are from Egypt and he used to go there each different summer season. Also, as a result of a few of his software program improvement is finished in Egypt, he had already taken businesspeople and prospects to Cairo.
“That aspect of my life gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing in terms of bringing people over and showing them around,” Mounib says. “I felt I had enough background that I could take care of people.”
After that Trump rally, Mounib introduced his marketing campaign to the web and radio. He finally was in a position to discover seven Americans who accepted his provide. They ranged from an Arizona single mother to a Kentucky magnificence queen and born-again Christian to an African-American police officer who mentioned he feared being taken hostage throughout his travels to a retired faculty trainer who mentioned she was a former liberal scarred by the 9/11 terrorist assaults.
“I’m so racist now, I can’t stand myself,” Ellen Decker says when she introduces herself in the course of the movie.
Mounib paid for the Americans to spend 10 days in Egypt within the firm of native hosts. He additionally introduced San Francisco filmmaker Ingrid Serban to movie what occurred. The crew captured 250 hours of footage that have been skilfully edited to create a movie of not fairly 100 minutes.
We watch the Americans ease into their journey, virtually in trip mode, at a resort. But quickly they’re within the thick of cultural alternate, getting to know their hosts on a human degree. The movie’s early concentrate on Mounib disappears because the Americans and Egyptians interact. There are a couple of tense moments, however extra moments of bonding that appear each odd and memorable. A heartstring-tugging episode or two movingly reveal widespread humanity higher than any cultural divide can present much-needed comfort.
“The whole process was so risky,” Mounib says. “We didn’t know if we were going to have the right people. In Egypt, we didn’t know how the story was going to unfold. Are we going to create some kind of cohesive film that’s actually engaging?”
Eventually, Mounib felt light-hearted and his angle was: “If only one person sees this film, it’s worth it.”
Mounib’s fledgling movie firm, Kindness Films, was in a position to organize six pre-screenings throughout the U.S. final yr, in New York, Los Angeles, Kentucky, Arizona, Washington and Michigan.
“The results set me on fire,” Mounib says. “The reaction was really mind-blowing. To see hearts opening and vulnerability, it really made me feel this is something really worthwhile. It’s the right time… this can be an effective tool in an atmosphere of pessimism and polarity.”
The movie was launched extra extensively within the U.S. this spring and final month it was the centrepiece of what Mounib referred to as the Pledge To Listen Day of Unity. On June 12, Free Trip to Egypt was proven in 500 U.S. theatres and instantly a panel dialogue was streamed into the theatres. Mounib hopes to make September “Pledge to Listen Month,” with extra screenings of the movie and occasions that encourage discussions of the movie’s themes and message.
Mounib can be on the ByTowne Friday for a question-and-answer session. “I’m super-excited about the film being shown in Ottawa because that really is my home,” he says.
Free Trip To Egypt
What: documentary produced by ex-Ottawan Tarek Mounib, about his venture to carry Islamophobic Americans to Egypt
Where: ByTowne Cinema (325 Rideau St.)
When: July 19 to 25, chosen instances