"Another Night on Earth"

in 55th Leipzig International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Jean-Max Méjean

Of course, the reference to Jim Jarmusch’s film [Night on Earth, Jim Jarmush, 1991] is explicit: taxis, at night, conversation pieces in a car. But here, no time match. We aren’t at the same moment in different cities of the world, but in Cairo, at night, some time after the Tahrir Square revolution. It is probably for this reason that the jury’s choice fell on this film, after impassioned discussions, precisely because David Muñoz tries to give an unconventional and unexpected picture of the people in the street, in order to understand the meaning of this change in society. The idea is simple: implement a mini-camera in front of several taxis and frame together the driver’s face, the client on his right and those seated behind him. This already gives an interesting field reverse angle because the protagonists almost don’t look at each others. They are mostly facing the camera, which challenges the viewer even more. The sound is excellent, even though the night image is often torn with streaks or pixels, which isn’t that annoying and makes the movie look even more documentary.

What is also interesting in the treatment of the film subject comes precisely from the fact that the director is Spanish. He presents himself like Candide, or rather he is inspired by Montesquieu who, in the 18th century, wondered with humor and mischief about what it is to be Persian [Lettres Persanes, 1721]. What is to be now, in the 21st century, an Egyptian, after loving through so many upheavals and misery, and still stand, resist, and have a sense of humour? Because people in Cairo don’t lack humour when discussing politics, religion, or even football. The documentary viewer is often surprised by the intelligence of people in the streets, which is why more and more young documentary filmmakers are filming them again and again, thinking that they will collect nuggets. Although they may be disappointed, it is always interesting to give a voice to the people. Democrats who claim to be able to govern us would do well to meditate on this movie.

Moreover, the tribute doesn’t stop with Jim Jarmusch. It would seem that David Muñoz is also a big movie lover because his film reminds us of John Ford [Stagecoach, John Ford, 1939], a little of Alfred Hitchcock [The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock, 1938], but also the classic tragedy (« one time, one place, only one fait accompli »), and especially Mizoguchi [Oyuki, the Virgin, Kenzi Mizoguchi, 1935, inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s Boule de suif]. By delicate impressionist dabs, Muñoz offers not only an X-ray of the Egyptian society with its expectations and disappointments, but a modest cinema lesson by inviting the documentary viewer to climb up in his little road movie, which definitely brings him to the end one uncertain night, still also full of humour, strength and optimism.

Special mention to the woman taxi driver, the only one in Cairo, when she slowly lights up her cigarette in a moment of great solitude, yet of freedom. 

Edited by Christina Stojanova