Namir Abdel Messeeh, Les Films d’Ici Team on Hybrid Doc ‘Life After Siham’

Ben Croll
·2-min read

Franco-Egyptian filmmaker Namir Abdel Messeeh (“The Virgin, the Copts and Me”) has teamed with Paris-based production outfit Les Films d’Ici for his next feature, the autobiographical hybrid-doc “Life After Siham.”

Building on themes he developed in his award-winning 2011 doc “The Virgin, the Copts and Me,” a self-reflexive exploration of family and identity that played in Cannes, Berlin and Copenhagen, among others, the filmmaker will once again take center stage in this follow-up, which will find the director grieving his mother’s passing and dealing with a creative impasse as he leads a writing workshop in Egypt.

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Currently in pre-production and presented as part of the Visions du Réel project pitch session, the film will follow two parallel tracks, mixing family footage the director shot before and after his mother’s passing against the fictional backdrop of a creative retreat set at the late Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s one-time residence.

With the spirits of Messeeh’s mother, Siham, and of Chahine haunting the narrative in ways both figurative and literal, the project will situate a personal story within a wider social context, following Messeeh’s story as well as those of his students at the workshop.

“The film will also be a portrait of contemporary Egypt,” Messeeh tells Variety. “Depicting a younger generation as they develop their own creative projects in post-revolution Egypt. Through them we’ll explore different facets of the modern country.”

“In this ‘fictional’ workshop there will be plenty of real material,” he continues. “This is a real workshop that I have given; the actors will be students I’ve worked with before… [As with my role,] they’ll be playing fictionalized versions of themselves, playing scenes that never actually happened as such.”

“The goal is to create a kind of confusion, where one cannot tell what is fiction and what is real — a real hybrid film in every sense.”

Independent producer Camille Laemlé will oversee the project. Affiliated with Paris-based doc house Les Films d’Ici since 2009, Laemlé has also produced Gianfranco Rosi’s 2016 Berlinale winner “Fire at Sea” and his Venice-selected follow-up “Notturno,” as well Wang Bing’s “Dead Souls,” which premiered in Cannes in 2018.

Laemlé was also a finalist for the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Producer’s Award at the 2020 Césars.

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