Fellini's "8½" is a film that I have watched several times. It is a film that I almost got stuck into! I kept on watching and re-watching it for weeks and weeks. I quoted excerpts of its dialogue in several situations and I even translated Guido's monologue -by the end of the film- into Arabic. I have simply fallen in love with this beautiful speech of him in the car talking to himself and to Luisa. The text captivated me that I wanted to interpret it into my own mother tongue.
For months, Sarah and all my close friends were sick of me mentioning the film and referring to its characters all the time. The film haunted me that I ripped off all the text about the making off of the film, in all the books that I could lay a hand on, that deal with Fellini and his films. I believe that it could have even turned into a disorder, but anyway, I think I'm recovering now.
One of the scenes that I never forget when it comes to this film is the scene when we see Luisa for the first time. (Actually it is not the very first time we see her. We get to see her before for less than a second in one of Guido's dreams, replacing his mother for an instant). That scene in which Guido goes to collect her after she arrives in the city where he is working on his upcoming film. By the beginning of the scene we do not know why is he there. He is looking around in the crowd aimlessly before he spots a lady that attracts his attention. He seems to be impressed and he follows her with his eyes. Luisa on the other hand is looking for him and doesn't seem to know where he is going to meet her exactly in this crowded area. When she sees him she smiles. He smiles too and seems to be very happy she came over. Actually this is almost the only scene in which they get along together well, at least for a moment. Afterwards all the scenes between them are either about him sneaking behind her back to do something she wouldn't approve. Or she finding out about things he has been doing (Mother-Son relationship?) . Or scenes of him in his dreams and fantasies where she is not the main character. This is the only scene where she is a "star". The only moment where she is the queen, and no other woman beating her. For Guido at this moment Luisa is everything when it comes to "women". She is just-right composition of what he needs from the other sex. There is only one or two elements when it comes to the other female characters. But with Luisa, and specially in this scene, she has ALL the elements. He sees her from the back, dressed simply and he is impressed. Probably this is how he met her for the first time actually. As opposed to Carla or Claudia or any of the other female characters in the film, there is nothing "exaggerated" in terms of her physical "tangible" qualities. She is not the super body (that he fantasizes about tweaking to be even better) like Carla is. And she is not Claudia, the most beautiful woman on Earth (who the sounds of the world are muted when she walks/flies around). She is simply Luisa. His companion. The spirit that makes him feel at home. The shadow of the mother.
I believe that with this very scene Fellini has added to our heritage of humanity a piece of art that summarizes the relationship between husbands and wives when it comes to communities that cherish monogamy. He did that with a super simple Cinema language.
The first time I was pushed to think of myself as a "documentary" filmmaker was during a work trip in Siwa oasis in 2010. On that trip I was working on a short documentary about the visit of a set of school students to the oasis and there exploration of the traditions there. I was accompanied by a friend of mine who helped me with recording sound while shooting. His name is Sameh Nabil. During one of the short breaks while shooting, Sameh mentioned that I should consider working more with the documentary medium. I remember he said something related to my "persistence for research". This was quite enlightening for me. Later on I thanked him several times for this revelation.
In 2011, I moved with Sarah to Arles, France, for six months. It was an important experience for us. When we were back by the beginning of September I had an idea for a feature documentary already quite developed in my mind. The idea behind the "The City Will Pursue You" was born within this period. I called home Mohamad El-Hadidi and told him about the project, and he decided to support me as a producer, DOP and later on even as a character in the film himself.