Mena Film Series Five Film Series Concluded With “Dry Hot Summer” by Director Sherif El Bendary

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The comedy/drama short film “Dry Hot Summer”  is one of five films in the MENA film series. Co-sponsored by the Global Studies Fellows Program and the Prindle Institute for Ethics, it drew many DePauw students and staff on Thursday, Feb. 15th to Peeler Auditorium. 

The 2015 film followed the story of two people at different points in their lives who accidentally meet on a busy “dry hot summer” day in a Cairo taxi. An old man named Shawky and a stressed-out, soon-to-be-married Doaa are caught up in their errands around the city, but form an unlikely bond of friendship in the process. 

The story starts with Shawky in a taxi on his way to a doctor's appointment, with a yellow bag of medical records ready for the appointment. Then, two ladies, Doaa and her sister Abeer, get into the taxi and are on calls, anxious to get their hair done. As they leave, they accidentally take Shawky’s yellow bag along with the rest of their shopping bags. Realizing this, he follows them to Hoda’s Salon, where Hoda tells him she left for the wedding photos and to give the flowers that she forgot to give them after working on the dress. Shawky catches up to them, and they catch a cab to the wedding photos. Later on, Doaa receives a call from Salah, her husband, that he won’t be able to take the wedding photos because he hasn’t arrived yet with his family. Doa then replies to Salah that she is bringing Shawky with her to be with her while she takes the wedding photos, claiming Shawky is her friend Abeer’s dad. After the call, throughout the rest of the ride, Doa starts a conversation with Shawky and tells him she and Salah plan to live in Tanta after the wedding that her parents planned and have an apartment set. Shawky says his wife and his siblings have passed away, and he only has a son, Soliman, who’s a lawyer in an important company. 

When they arrive, because Salah can’t make it, Shawky and Doaa take the photos because the photographer said he’ll photoshop Salah in later. Afterward, Shawky leaves and arrives at the doctor, and they tell him he has stage four colon cancer, and that it’s a miracle he’s still alive. The doctors say they should move on and that he’s a lost cause with only a few days or weeks left to live. 

The movie then transitions to the future and ends with Doa regretting her marriage to Salah. At the same time, Shakya sits on a chair contemplating his life, but both have marriage photos. Doaa has the photoshopped photo, but you can still see Shakya's hand, while Shakya has the original photo of Doaa and him. 

Once the screening ended, the director Sherif El Bendary, answered the audience's questions, initially answering a question on the production and amount of days it took to shoot the film. One of the questions was on how many cameras were used during the duration of filming. Bendary answered that “one camera was used in a duration of ten days that it took to make the film, which has eight shooting days.”

In another discussion, the director also answered an audience question on where the idea of the film came from. Bendary responded that the “idea of the movie was from the writers, directors, and me. I had the idea because we were thinking of something: an encounter of two people. He’s there, a man, two characters connecting, and about two human beings in the city where Cairo is a character.”

The director also answered a final question from the audience discussing the film and if he made it thinking about a Western audience and keeping that in mind in terms of presentation, representing your culture, your country, etc. He answered by saying that it’s a “visual question, but generally, to be a filmmaker is to be yourself in the shoes of the audience all the time. Is this film easy to understand? Will the audience understand this? And the Western audience is one of the audiences, so sometimes I consider the Western culture to see if they will understand. I put myself in the shoes of a Western audience. But for sure, sometimes I try to understand how they see the film to make it more understandable.”

Overall, this film was great, and it was interesting to see the journey Mr.Shawky had with Doaa, see their connection, and hear them talk about different parts of their lives. From watching this film, what will stay with me is the relationship that Shawky and Doaa were able to have after just a brief time together. We see this in real life too, whether that be with people you speak to on a bus or a taxi for a split second, human interactions can have a deep impact on you. Also, the discussion of Sherif El Bendary, the director of the film with the DePauw community, was interesting to hear, listening to his experiences making the film from production to how he managed the challenge of appealing to a Western audience.