Free Trip To Egypt


It sounded like a scam, which explains why there were so few takers. Maybe as soon as you  arrived in Cairo you would be kidnapped, held for ransom or beheaded.

Free Trip To Egypt  wasn’t a scam, but an idea from filmmaker Tarek Mounib ( a fellow Carleton University grad). Take a group of Americans fearful of Muslims. Bring them to Cairo and let them meet Muslims. See what happens. Film it, and show the world.

The film is in limited run in Ottawa and I had the opportunity to watch it Tuesday night. My wife really liked it. My impression was more mixed.

It isn’t that I didn’t like the film. It was entertaining and the people were fairly easy to relate to. I saw places in Egypt I want to visit. Cultural gaps were bridged, stereotypes abolished, tears shed.

My reservations would stem more from knowledge that those going on the trip were not as representative of America as Mounib would probably have liked – those people weren’t willing to make the trip.

Their Egyptian hosts as well had a grasp of English that I don’t think most of the populace has. Perhaps cosmopolitan Cairo residents are more open to foreigners than those in Matrouh Governate in the western part of the country. I suspect those in the film might be more atypical than typical.

Certainly there are some stereotypes in the portrayal of Americans. Guns and God are prominent.

There are surprises as well. Who would think that there are Egyptians who would praise Donald Trump?

Free Trip To Egypt is only the beginning. Mounib is encouraging dialogue and discussion, seeking to further break down walls and bridge some gaps. His hope is that if people listen to each other they might discover there is more that unites them than separates them.

Indeed there was one unintentional moment of unity in the film, where Mounib chose a cultural activity that managed to offend both conservative Muslim Egyptians and conservative American Christians.

Or maybe it wasn’t unintentional. Maybe he knew how they would react and wanted to capture it on film. In a documentary the filmmaker can shape the finished product – something to always keep in mind.

Call Free Trip To Egypt a film about little breakthroughs as opposed to big ones. Little breakthroughs can be important. It was an entertaining way to spend an evening.

The film is playing across Canada at the moment, but is not in general release in the US, though there have been some special screenings. I wonder if American theatre-goers are ready for it?

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