What Comes Around
"A raw and deeply affecting documentary which is likely to touch the hearts of all those who come across it." – CineVue
"An urgent, raw, fresh and unique depiction of Middle Eastern life in ways no news channels can cover." – Awardswatch.com
- Berlin International Film Festival
- Vancouver International Film Festival
- Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
This colorful documentary concerning the inhabitants of a poor neighborhood in Cairo records, over six years, the joys and sorrows of its subjects, revealing an intimate portrait of their everyday existence seldom found on the screen.
Within Rod El-Farag, one of the many crowded neighborhoods of Cairo, the impoverished don’t always have the money to make ends meet. Rather than turning to the government, the neighborhood community looks out for itself through a process called al Gami’ya, which translates roughly to “the credit union.” Neighbors contribute a fixed amount regularly and then meet to decide who deserves the collected sum that month. In this manner, the individuals in this collective get what are, in a sense, interest-free loans and never must go begging.
The lives of these individuals and how they use the credit union form the basis for What Comes Around, which follows these characters for six years. Over that span of time, the collected money pays for an incredible variety of things: medical bills; a wedding feast for a couple that gets divorced a week later; a sacrificial rabbit to inaugurate a new motorcycle; and even female genital mutilation. This last purchase is especially distressing considering the young, headstrong girl who undergoes the operation against the wishes of her father, who only later discovers what has happened. Alongside the purchases, we see, over time, a separated couple get married again, get divorced, then get married a third time, and then get divorced a third time, all while new children are born to them. An older woman takes care of her husband who is confined to bed due to an amputated leg; later she is kicked out of her apartment after her husband dies. And a man who had seemed to be a committed father and husband leaves his family to devote himself to prayer. Yet amidst these heartbreaking moments, there are many moments of joy: the feasts of Ramadan, the dancing and playing of children, the simple camaraderie of joking friends. All of it, the highs and the lows, is captured by a camera that seems ubiquitous and invisible; characters reveal their innermost desires and heartaches to the screen in a manner almost startling in its frankness.
What Comes Around allows entry into a world that might appear foreign to some at first, but also quickly reveals the familiar nature of people bound together by their humanity. Through it all, beautiful images of a sun-drenched landscape reveal a community that supports itself, financially but also emotionally and spiritually, while facing the hardships of reality and the destructive forces of penury.
80 Minutes | Arabic with English subtitles.
Directed by Reem Saleh
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