9th ALFILM – Happily Ever After

© Katja Volkenant

Happily Ever After is an intimate portrait of a couple living in Egypt: Nada and Ayman. It is a documentary which provides an unusually close insight into their relationship; the story is told using many candid shots taken from hand-held cameras and more conventional scenes which give a window into their private lives. The story is set against the background of the Egyptian revolution and the course of events in its aftermath. The film also examines Nada’s relationship with her parents and the frequent conflicts in their political beliefs and perspectives.

The film screened with Nada and Ayman present. Nada said that the idea for the film started when she was about to break up with Ayman and the final resort for her as a filmmaker, was to make a film as a way of trying to talk to him about the relationship. Ayman said that they tried to discover as they began making the film, what the main reason was for the conflicts in their relationship. He said that gradually it became clear that the political situation in Egypt and how it affected their lives was a major factor.

© Christina Homburg

The role of distance – physical, emotional and geographical – in the film was also discussed. There are scenes where Nada clashes with her parents about her views on the Egyptian revolution and how it contrasts to their political activism in the 1970s. Nada said that it was difficult for her parents to watch the film because it makes a very direct statement of her feelings about the political situation and how she approaches it. She said that despite the difficulties in communication, she felt that time passing had given both her and her parents some distance between past events, and ultimately a new perspective on them.

© Christina Homburg

One person asked about the film’s perspective on guilt, specifically about leaving a home country which has a lot of problems. They said that as a Palestinian who left Palestine by choice, the film made them feel a little guilty to be leaving their own problems and stories behind. Ayman explained that he hadn’t actually intended to permanently leave Egypt, but it was unfortunate that his master’s degree coincided with the events of the Egyptian revolution in 2011. He said that he felt bad about leaving the country at this key moment, but he also had to prioritise getting his degree, which ultimately helped him to make the film he was currently presenting. Nada said that on a broader level, they hadn’t intended to make people feel guilty for leaving their country, rather to highlight the complications and personal struggles that people face when deciding whether to remain or leave the place where they are born.

One person said that they enjoyed the film but the tension between the couple had been represented so well that it was quite hard to watch. They asked how the filmmakers were doing now and if making the film had turned out to be a healing process as it was intended. Nada and Ayman revealed that they have since gotten married and that they have found new ways of coping with conflicts in the relationship.

Another person mentioned that the film discusses the mistakes made by the current generation in Egypt, particularly around the revolution. They asked if the filmmakers could give some specific examples of these mistakes. Ayman was a little reluctant to answer but he apparently has strong opinions on the topic, so Nada handed him the microphone. He said that he felt like some people in the days and weeks immediately after the revolution became arrogant and as undemocratic as the people they had managed to topple. Nada said that she felt like it was very difficult for people of a new generation without any direct experience of revolution to anticipate all the problems they might face.

© Christina Homburg