Poisonous Roses, Dir. Ahmed Fawzi Saleh, Egypt, 2018, 70 min, Arabic with English subtitles
The characters of Cairo’s old tannery district are vividly evoked in Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Fawzi Saleh’s Poisonous Roses, where narrative takes a backseat to mood and visual immersion.
Set in the same milieu as his striking documentary debut Live Skin, Saleh’s sophomore effort centres on the obsessive relationship between a young sister and her apathetic brother who wants to flee from his destitute life to Italy. Based on Ahmed Zaghloul Al-Shiti’s 1990 cult novel Poisonous Roses for Saqr, Saleh’s bold adaptation transforms the novelist’s lucid text into an elliptical narrative. This is a portrait of modern lower-class Cairo by turns stark and humane, brutal and beautiful.