Cairo Time

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cairo Time

Given the fact that we grew up in the same town, even went to the same high school, I should probably be loyal to Julia Roberts. There is a “home town girl makes good” aspect to her that I both recognize and love. This month I suppose my loyalty should be exhibited by extolling the glories of her new movie, Eat Pray Love, at every opportunity. However, when it comes to a film about the enlightenment of a woman in an exotic culture, I cannot stop thinking about Cairo Time.
Smaller and quieter than its more visible cousin film, Cairo Time has been called a love letter of sorts to the city for which it is named, and that is certainly accurate. The colours, the postcard-worthy vistas, even the music, of Cairo are presented to the viewer in an enchanting and intoxicating package. One of my favourite scenes occurs when Juliette opens the door to her hotel room balcony and is mesmerized by the panorama that suddenly appears before her. Stunned, she steps back into the room, drags an armchair outside and simply sits there, trying to take it all in.
As a love story, Cairo Time shares a bittersweet tone with the old Katharine Hepburn movie, Summertime, one of my favourites. The city of Venice shared the screen with Miss Hepburn back then, and Cairo partners with the divine Patricia Clarkson, as Juliette, in this movie. They make an especially fine pair.

Although Cairo Time is a thoughtful love story with a soundtrack by Niall Byrne that is positively swoon-worthy, I came away thinking more about the whole idea of travel and its vital significance in the journey of the human soul. There are a lot of lovely silences in this movie, exquisite little moments where we are allowed to simply observe Juliette’s face as she is continually met with sights and ideas so foreign to the ones she has known. Gently wafting across her face are surprise, admiration, confusion, understanding - emotions common to the traveler and ones that are essential, in my view, to the development of vision and sagacity.

Last year, it was with a shudder that I heard the American politician, Newt Gingrich, state, with no small amount of pride, "I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!" I found this remark to be nakedly horrifying, especially since this man is rumoured to be mulling over a presidential run in 2012. One wonders at the sort of ignorance and arrogance that brings someone to a conclusion such as this. How can we expect anyone, anywhere, to give credence to our views and beliefs when the exchange is so wholly onesided? Personally, I think the best thing for every human being, Mr. Gingrich included, is to be plopped down in a country in which they are not the top dog, where they themselves are the “foreigners” - the ones in need of translation, the ones needing to learn. A certain kind of knowledge is born in situations such as these, a knowledge that, over time, can effervesce into wisdom. And Lord knows, the world needs more of that.

It is not a threat to patriotism to realize that the world is distinctly smaller that it used to be. Either as a country or as an individual, none of us can afford to live as an island, swaddled in the delusion that the problems, or the joys, of others are irrelevant to our lives here on this tiny blue planet. When I have traveled to places outside of my usual sphere - where the landscape is different, the language unknown, and the sounds, the smells, the tastes are unfamiliar to my senses - these have been the journeys that have shaped my thinking and expanded my knowledge of myself, my country and my world. I like to think travel has helped to provide me with what little understanding I possess.

Go see Cairo Time.
Watch as the feluccas slowly drift down the Nile.
Rest beneath the shade of a rock in the White Desert.
Sit with a stranger on the stones of the Pyramids.
Then call your travel agent and go somewhere you have always wanted to go.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
St. Augustine

See more about the film, Cairo Time, HERE