Special Presentation: Cairo Time

Though Cairo Time is her first feature at TIFF, Ruba Nadda is no neophyte. Sabah, the 36-year-old director's drama starring Arsinée Khanjian and produced by Atom Egoyan, had a successful international festival run.

Looking to turn up Cairo heat in T.O.

• Writer/director: Ruba Nadda
• Producers: Daniel Iron, Dave Collins
• Executive producer: Christine Vachon
• Production companies: Foundry Films, Samson Films
• Key cast: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Tom McCamus
• Distributor: Mongrel Media (Canada)
• International sales: E1 Films International
• International coproduction: Canada (80%)/Ireland (20%)
• Telefilm investment: $2 million

Though Cairo Time is her first feature at TIFF, Ruba Nadda is no neophyte. Sabah, the 36-year-old director’s drama starring Arsinée Khanjian and produced by Atom Egoyan, had a successful international festival run and was released in Canada by Mongrel Media, which will also handle distribution of Cairo Time.

Still, there’s no mistaking Nadda’s enthusiasm when she says, ‘I’m really excited about TIFF. It’s our worldwide premiere and really it will be the start of everything. Our goal is to sell, sell, sell!’

Nadda’s film stars renowned character actress Patricia Clarkson (Good Night, and Good Luck, Six Feet Under) as Juliette, a 50-something editor who is escorted through Cairo by her husband’s (Tom McCamus) friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig), a handsome former police officer. Naturally, the two fall in love – but what about Juliette’s husband?

Cairo Time is a Canada/Ireland coproduction, which received a $2 million investment from Telefilm Canada, and was executive produced by acclaimed American indie Christine Vachon (Far from Heaven, I Shot Andy Warhol) and produced by Canada’s prolific Daniel Iron (Away from Her, Manufactured Landscapes).

The 25-day shoot in Cairo was ‘crazy,’ according to Nadda. ‘Cairo is chaotic, bustling with people, brutally hot every day, with insane traffic – but something about that city chips away at your guard. The people were so friendly and accommodating. It was almost lawless but not.

‘For example,’ Nadda continues, ‘we were using a crane on the main bridge in Cairo. Problem was, our crane was old and the bridge kept rocking back and forth from the cars and traffic, sending the crane everywhere. My 1st AD said, ‘We need to scrap this,’ but I was desperate. I knew I needed that shot. So Danny Iron and I ran out into traffic and stopped it – he on one side and I on the other – and we got our shot.’

Iron also wryly recounts an unusual anecdote: ‘We were wading through a wedding in our hotel lobby trying to find three veiled seamstresses among hundreds of veiled women, to mend Patricia’s dress.’

Cairo Time has been sold to Australia and the Middle East, but the ‘main push will be at TIFF,’ explains Iron, adding it will be released in Canada on Oct. 9.