Cairo Time


Directed by: Ruba Nadda
Written by:Ruba Nadda
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Anaya, Tom McCamus, Amina Annabi
Released: August 19, 2010
Grade: B+

I’ve reviewed close to 3,000 films on my website but this week, I’ve got another Film Pie first.  I was lucky enough to score an interview with Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, who has appeared in films such as The Green Mile, The Station Agent, Pieces Of April and Good Night & Good Luck.  It was a special opportunity so I thought I’d make the most of it.  For the very first time, I'm reviewing a film with one of its stars listening down the telephone line.  Here’s how it went (with 612ABC’s Spencer Howson offering a comment at the very end)…

Matt:  Do you actually read reviews yourself Patricia for the films that you’re in?

Patricia:   No.  I try not to so the fact that I have to listen to an oral review coming at me… (laughs).  It’s fine.

Matt:  Ok, we’ll keep it delicate.  In this film Cairo Time, you’re playing Juliette – she’s a magazine editor in her 50s, she’s gone to Cairo to meet up with her husband who has been working in Gaza for the UN.  When she gets to Cairo her husband has been delayed and she’s waiting in the hotel room on her own.  I must say it’s a beautiful hotel room.  Were you staying in something like that?

Patricia:   It’s somewhat similar.  Yes, we shot at the Shepherd’s Hotel and we stayed there.  We got a deal which is what we needed seeing as this was a small budget film.

Matt:  I loved that scene where you’re sitting out on the balcony for the first time admiring the view of Cairo.  It’s just a beautiful city.

Patricia:  Yes, it’s a breathtaking city.

Matt:  You’re couped up in the hotel room and your character is going a bit stir-crazy.  You step out onto the streets of Cairo to have a look around and I’ve never been to Egypt myself (it’s on my bucket list) but was that your first trip?  Have you been there before?

Patricia:  This was my first trip to the Middle East.  I must say that it delivered.  Cairo packs a punch in many, many ways… in unexpected ways.  It was a life changing experience for me this whole project.  Shooting this movie, being in Cairo, being the lead of this film and working every single day.  It was rigorous.  It was quite a journey.

Matt:  There’s a moment in the film where you’re walking and a group of guys are following you and they’re leering at you.  One of them even touches you.  You manage to escape by popping into a store and it’s quite a striking moment in the film.  Was it actually like that in Egypt?

Patricia:  There is an element of that absolutely.  It’s not overrun by fundamentalists but it’s a male driven society.  You do have to be careful as a Western-looking woman walking the streets with my blond hair.  I had to be careful and I had a fairly similar event happen about three days into Cairo.   I never went anywhere alone again.  It’s just in certain parts and certain sections, not everywhere in Cairo, just certain places.  They do love women of any age.

Matt:  In the film you strike up a friendship with one of your husband’s former colleagues – he’s an Egyptian local named Tariq.  You go out and see the sights and there’s something that develops between the two of you.  It’s not like a traditional Hollywood type relationship as in let’s kiss, off the bedroom, passionate love affair and that sort of stuff.  It’s a really subtle relationship.  How would you describe what happens between Juliette and Tariq?

Patricia:  It is restrained.  Not just because of their cultures and customs.  I think it’s restrained because of who they are as people and what is at stake.  I think they’re honourable people but very sexy!

Matt:  There’s a beautiful scene late in the film where you’re at the pyramids and the camera is looking up with the pyramids behind while you’re sitting on one of the great stones.  That must have been pretty surreal?

Patricia:  Yes and it’s real.  There’s no CGI in the film except for a little scene on a train but everything else in this film is exactly as it was.  When I was telling friends I was in Cairo they were asking if I’d seen the pyramids.  Did I see the pyramids?  I sat on the pyramids!  I hugged the pyramids!  Everything is very real and every location was a real location.  Nothing was created or modified and I think it’s an honourable part of the film. 

Matt:  Well I think it’s a really good film.  I was a worried at first when it was a little bit slow to start.  There’s a large focus on the city.  But the focus then turns to Juliette and by the final act of the film, I really enjoyed the interaction between Juliette and Tariq.  There’s not a lot of dialogue.  I’m giving this the thumbs up and will give it a B+.

Patricia:  Oh good.  Ok, ok.  (breathes sigh of relief)

Matt:  Does that mean you’re going to give it an A, Patricia?

Patricia:  Of course I give it an A (laughs).  But a thumbs up and a B+ is a very good thing.  I’m thrilled with that.

Spencer:  That must have been terrifying for you?  Like sitting there with the headmaster or something 

Patricia:  Yes, a little bit.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I survived it.  (laughs)

Matt:  Thanks Patricia.

Patricia:  Thank-you so much guys.  You guys are fun!  Take care.