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A filmmaker’s ode to the beloved Cairo building where he learned his art

English subtitles for this video are available by clicking the CC button at the bottom right of the video player.

For Moustafa (Disha) Hisham, the main building at the High Cinema Institute in Giza, Egypt, where he is a student, is both a formative learning centre and one hell of a film set. In his film Transit, he details how this rugged and enchanting assembly of subdued sepia tones, weathered mirrors, perfect golden hours, wide open spaces and hidden corridors is also a space in flux. A meditative and deeply personal portrait of place, the short documentary captures the building in its waning days as the Institute’s hub, as the students prepare to move on to a new – and, as Hisham laments, ‘hot pink’ – facility that lacks the old building’s charms and cinematic potential.

Hisham centres the film on the anthropological concept of ‘liminality’ – the sense of being in the ambiguous, uncertain middle of a rite of passage – to draw parallels between his coming of age as an artist and the space’s uncertain future. The resulting piece is a skilful show and tell. Hisham deploys the cinematography chops he’s learned both in and through the building, drawing out its intersecting geometries and long shadows, including the lives of those who’ve grown to feel at home within it. And with its wide-eyed ruminations, Hisham’s narration is rich and refreshingly earnest, urging viewers to reject cynicism and embrace the liminal in all its forms.

Written by Adam D’Arpino

Director: Disha Hisham