• Golden Globe Awards

The Nile Hilton Incident (Egypt)

Cairo. January 2011. A few days before the start of the Arab Spring protests in Egypt that will end the regime of President Mubarak. Noredin, (Fares Fares seen in Zero Dark Thirty), a corrupt police officer, is investigating the murder of a club singer found in a room of the eponymous hotel. The victim might have been blackmailing some of the rich men she was dating, one of them a powerful real estate tycoon with close ties to the power elite. For Noredin, the only way to find the truth and solve the case is to break the rules and collide with the system, unveiling an even larger web of corruption with ramifications on all echelons of Egyptian society.Winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the last Sundance Film festival, The Nile Hilton Incident is a true film noir thriller: A sort of Cairo Confidential for its intoxicating James Ellroy atmospheric undertone. “The film is all about Cairo, about the past and the future colliding and the people that get crushed in the middle,” explains its director Tarik Saleh (born in Stockholm in 1972 to an Egyptian father and Swedish mother). It was inspired by true events. The 2008 murder of famous Lebanese singer Suzane Tamim in Dubai for which Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a rich Egyptian business magnate and parliament member close to the Mubarak family, was convicted, sentenced and recently pardoned.Saleh, whose previous features include Metropia and Tommy, had planned to shoot the film in Cairo. “But three days before principal photography was going to begin, the Egyptian State Security closed us down,” he recalls. “We had to pack and move the production to Casablanca.” A version of the script had been leaked to the local censorship board who objected to some too offending sequences, one showing police opening fire on protesters from a rooftop. “I was devastated. Then I thought of Fellini and Amarcord. The people in his hometown of Rimini could swear they recognized streets and houses in the film. But he had shot it all in Cinecitta! To recreate a city you have to capture its soul. I wanted to recreate Cairo in its futuristic dystopian glory. High contrast, not black and white, but yellow and black. And Noredin is our guide, a prince in the city. He will teach you the art of bribery. Through him you will learn the beauty of power and the ugliness of truth.”Mentioning the influence of Costa Gavras whom he considers a master Tarik Saleh acknowledges “a filmmaker living in Egypt would not have been able to make a film like this, exposing the rotten core of the system so clearly.” No wonder The Nile Hilton Incident has few chances to be distributed in the country. “I want Egyptians to see the film, the director says. I’d love to have it screen in theaters, but that’s absolutely not my call. I think people will ultimately see it through the black market…” Looking back on the whole experience, he admits, “The fiction of the Nile Hilton Incident was constantly crashing into reality. It was my responsibility to tell this story. At times it scared me, but to be honest, this why I do this: to make my dreams come true.”On a side note, Tarik Saleh has just completed work on the second season of Westworld for HBO due for broadcast next spring.