The Virgin, The Copts and Me 2011, 2013
Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Namir Abdel Messeeh
Directed by Namir Abdel Messeeh
DVD , color, 88 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
Coptic Christianity, Virgin Mary—Apparitions, Family Relations, Religion, Films, France, Egypt
Date Entered: 12/17/2013Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO
Intrigued by grainy footage of a purported Marian apparition near his ancestral home, French-born filmmaker Namir Abdel Messeeh journeys camera in hand to Egypt, determined to better understand the numerous appearances of the Virgin Mary to both Copts and Muslims there over the last four decades.
Plans for this, his first feature film, seem sketchy at best—both his mother and his producer fret over the project’s lack of focus. And while thousands of Egyptians may have witnessed an appearance of the Virgin, Abdel Messeeh finds few in Cairo willing to speak to him of their experiences on camera. Religious belief is a divisive topic in Egypt, and it’s clear that the filmmaker’s agnosticism is an added barrier to connecting with his subjects. As time, money and his producer’s patience are running out, Abdel Messeeh heads south to Asyut, site of a recent Marian apparition and the city with the highest concentration of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Asyut is also his mother Siham’s home town, and, despite her threats to sue if he films them, Abdel Messeeh reunites with family there and finally discovers the focus for his project: a filmed re-enactment of the Virgin’s appearance using village locals as cast and crew. When his producer abruptly cuts funding for the project, Siham comes to her son’s aid, and, using her formidable organizational skills, helps bring the film to a satisfying end.
Shot in handheld HD digital and boasting strong visuals and deft editing, The Virgin, The Copts and Me is a first-person documentary celebrating both process and product in filmmaking, an affectionate homage to family bonds and religious heritage done with gentle humor and great insight. A great choice for any library, but especially for academic collections supporting film, religious, and cultural studies programs. Chaptered. In French and Arabic, with subtitles in English.
- Best Arab Documentary, 2011 Doha Film Festival
- Audience Award, 2012 Visions du Réel