Two things drew me to this film: 1) Willem Dafoe is in it 2) it shows the gritty side of living near a place where dreams come true.
That place is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
On the other side of the tracks, just outside the magic kingdom lies a bunch of rundown motels originally built for the overflowing tourist trade looking to save a buck but still be close enough to get fairy dusted.
But this is not an enchanting story. It revolves around a specific motel The Magic Castle. A mother/daughter relationship, a place where tough talking families live, barely able to make ends meet, scraping by just to make the monthly rent as the housing crises rises. The inwardly frustrated although patient motel manager, is played outstandingly by Dafoe. But the real stars of this movie are the motel kids who live in a world all their own. You feel sorry for them, and you also cannot stand them as they go about their precociously uncaring antics. They are, after all, a product of their upbringing.
It is another world to many of us, but too familiar for many others. A despairing time and place in America; all too real, right now.
It’s a fascinating look from a safe distance into a chaotic world of what is the opposite of enchantment, mostly seen from the eyes of the kids.
Directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine)
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My reasoning for choosing this feature from the many contemporary world cinema selections were the words “Nile Hilton.”
That’s because I stayed there for almost a month in 1999 (now it’s called the Ramses Hilton) in a beautiful 2-bedroom suite on an executive floor as my husband had business in Cairo. I would take my coffee on the balcony overlooking the River Nile and enjoy all-day refreshments in the lounge. It was very decadent at that time and I got to know the staff while Don was working, hung out at the pool and walked a short distance to the Egyptian museum to check out the mummies…more than once. I got to know a lot of shopkeepers too. I bought gold jewelry, perfume, leather bags, a silk carpet and a belly-dancing outfit. I had a lot of time on my hands. I had my own little incident at the hotel which got resolved quickly with the help of a burly bouncer who came to my rescue, but there were no casualties that I was aware of.
Well that was my first reason. My second was that the movie blurb appeared to be intriguingly film noirish. It turned out to be better than I had hoped for. It was a gripping crime mystery filmed on the streets of Cairo; seedy and corrupt. All the elements of a good detective story. It won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the Canadian Premiere and the line was loooong. I sauntered in thinking I had plenty of time to spare but it was already sold out. I stood in the standby line even with my media pass (“but you don’t understand…I lived at that hotel”). Just managed to make it, along with my medium bag of $9 popcorn.
An innocent young maid is witness to the murder of a beautiful singer in one of the hotel rooms. Noredin, The cop who gets involved, (played by Fares Fares, that’s his name) meets resistance at every step of his investigation and you begin to realize that many people are at play here and politics are involved. Always, right?
The movie is set in a Cairo on the edge of revolution. On January 25, 2011, all across Egypt, millions of protestors from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyption President Hosni Mubarak. As the engrossing story enfolds, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
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