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The film In search of a city (in the papers of Sein) , 34 minutes, takes the viewer on a journey in modern day Cairo that provides a reading of the present physical and psychological topography of the City. Her trajectory is inspired by the history of the relationship between “local” and “foreigner” in the last 200 years; after all modern Cairo was set on a European model to impress the Europeans .
The basis for the film is a research into historical events, travelogues, social studies, literature, photographs, letters, periodicals, eye witness accounts that deal directly or indirectly with the subject at hand, namely how does the topography of present day Cairo reflect its contentious relationship to its colonial history. At a glance, the city seems to be simultaneously dilapidating and regenerating without apparent logic. Some age-old icons fall; some rise and some are revised at a dizzying speed. What of these seemingly uncontrolled metamorphoses relate to the age-old dichotomy of coloniser and colonised, local and “khawaga”? What remains of the inherited Western ideals of knowledge and progress in the face of the harsh reality of a stagnant economy and a non-responsive political system? And how do the conservative, traditionalist forces of the present relate to those of the past in their influence on daily life?
Sein is a figment of the imagination of an author that brings her to life out of some discarded papers she picks from a ropa vecchia seller. The author destines her to roam the City in search for something lost.
Sein ambulates in the City to the cadence of her inner voice; a tight amalgamation of the voices of different personae that have been marked by the City over the last 200 years, intermingled with her own thoughts.
Physically, Sein both relates and negates her relationship to the present day. While her attire, style and mannerisms take directly from the visual culture of the City, they are modified to call into the mind “the connection” and negate “the documentation”.
Also her gender comes into play, the flaneur being a term that brings to mind an activity undertaken by men. Moreover, the masculine voice represents authority and finality. Sein’s flaneries are more flaneries of the mind presented in a highly condensed form (the 35 minutes of the film) that look into the interstices, the gaps and the details to present a different picture; one that is highly personal and non-authoritative.
To emphasize the temporal nature of her journey that exceeds the time frame of the film as well as the multiplicity of view points brought forward by her voice, her physical likeness and her voice change throughout the course of the film and no attempt is made to link her movements on a continuum of time. So her trajectory is edited in vignette form (in relation to the papers found by the author) and can be entered at different points with different effect.
Sein remains close to her subject, in fact, at times it is impossible to split them. She is part and parcel of the City, herself. She is always presented in connection to what she is experiencing. At times she almost morphs with her surroundings. She is seen as a fleeting figure or a reflection or as perceived by the subjects she comes to meet. She sticks to her role as a purveyor of the experience. She brings the viewer to certain moments in history, to places, to encounters with certain characters and happenings enrobed with her own daily experience of the City.
The viewer experiences her highly choreographed ambulations very much like a dream; visuals and editing contributing to the feeling.
The logic of the trajectory she makes is not spelt out, but is alluded to through the visuals, editing, music and voice-over. After all, she is subject to the whims of an author that cannot be separated from her. In effect, the narrative shuns linearity, but works very much like how a brain stitches together disparate ideas based on an inner logic.
Sein tires of walking the streets and decides to break free from the author’s grasp. She creates another character Saad. She lures Saad out to her world of fiction, hoping that if he joins her she could finally be freed from the author.
And her trajectory comes full circle.

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