Four shorts by Atteyat Al Abnoudy
Horse of Mud / Husan al-Ti
Egypt, 1971 | 12 min
In one of her earliest and most poignant works, Atteyat Al Abnoudy captures the dignity of Cairo’s poor. In this beautifully photographed document, the primitive process of brick-making is examined, revealing the monotonous choreography of a nonetheless meaningful social task. The sad dance of their fluid movements intermingled with personal stories deeply resonates.
The Sandwich / Al-Sandawich
Egypt, 1975 | 12 min
In a village that seems to have escaped the passage of time, the softness of the film’s focus on a group of children freely playing in an open, green space is effectively altered by outside forces. Deftly combining elements of fiction and non-fiction, The Sandwich is perhaps the lesser known yet more confident of Al Abnoudy’s early films.
Seas of Thirst (Bihar al-’Attash)
Egypt, 1980 | 44 min
Al Abnoudy moves away from her usual exploration of Egypt’s south to the north of the country, wherein she captures communities living near the salty lakes of El Borrolos during a treacherous drought. Bearing a stark contrast to the barren landscape around them, the richness of the local characters provide the moving narrative of a struggling class in its entirety.
Permissible Dreams (Al-Ahlam al-Mumkinna)
Egypt, 1983 | 31 min
Told through the eyes of Oum Said, a woman farmer living near the canal zone, Permissible Dreams explores the hopes of a sole character who speaks directly to the camera throughout much of the film. Slightly different aesthetically from other works in Al Abnoudy’s oeuvre, Permissible Dreams captures a woman’s struggles with societal and gender inequality and the desire for a real education, but in typical Al Abnoudy fashion, eschews ideological trappings or fetishizing of Egypt’s poorer classes.
Atteyat Al-Abnoudy (1939-2018) was born Atteyat Awad Mahmoud Khalil into a family of labourers in a small village along the Nile Delta. A child of Nasserism, she studied law at the University of Cairo while supporting herself financially by working as an actress and assistant director at the theatre. At the beginning of the 1970s, she decided to study film at the Cairo Higher Institute of Cinema, where she created Horse of Mud, which was not only her first film but also Egypt’s first documentary produced by a woman. Against the grain, Atteyat Al-Abnoudy managed to produce more than thirty films which were shown worldwide, albeit rarely in her own country.