a wonderful film that strikes the uniquely interesting tone - running horses
Running Horses is a story of love, revolution and racehorses set amid the turmoil of today's Egypt.
Running Horses is the first feature-length documentary from filmmaker Jessica Kelly.
50-year old Nasser has been breeding horses near the Pyramids for thirty years but now his business and his horses are in danger. The Pyramid stables have been hit hard by the drop in foreigners visiting Egypt since the revolution. Mass graves recently discovered containing horses that have died from neglect or been put to death attest to the extent of the crisis.
In a bid to save his stables, Nasser hopes to enter his best Arab mare and his son as jockey to compete in Egypt’s annual desert endurance race this November. But as the suffering of local horse owners continues, enthusiasm for the race that has been going on for generations is seeping away.
Running Horses follows Nasser and his son in the months before, during and after the race to see how their fortunes pan out; how much will Nasser endure before admitting that even an ancient tradition must adapt to life in the new, post-revolutionary Egypt, and at what cost to his horses, his family, and his dignity?
Running Horses examines the hopes and fears of a country yet to discover the outcome of its revolution.
Nasser is a determined man whose love for his craft now clashes with the political realities of post-revolutionary Cairo. His stables, inherited from his great-grandfather, are in Nazlet al-Samaam, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo home to 3,000 horses and camels. Most inhabitants make a living charging tourists for rides around the Pyramids, but Nasser runs a more sophisticated operation breeding world-class Arab thoroughbreds, which he enters into competitions or sells on to rich Egyptians and Gulf Arabs. The neighbourhood represents not only the dreams of people like Nasser, but also the conflicts and contradictions of contemporary working-class Cairo.
Nasser has chosen his son Goma’a to ride in the endurance race. Goma’a has a deep love and understanding of horses, but his generation’s ability to effect change during the revolution has opened his eyes to a world of other opportunities. The film explores the conflict that arises between father and son as the older man clings to tradition, and the younger man looks ahead to the elections.
’Aziza is a pedigree Arab mare but she has only recently been broken in, and is a long way from being fit enough to run for a whole day without stopping. The film follows the horse as Nasser’s most skilled trainer – his son – pushes her to her limits in the wasteland around the pyramids, daily, for four weeks prior to the race. As long as there are no injuries, Nasser thinks she stands a good chance of winning.
What will the film look like?
Running Horses is a creative, observational documentary that uses the worn textures and colours of Cairo, and the unmistakable vista of the Pyramids as a backdrop for an introspective, inter-generational story.
The film begins in the stables, combining quiet observation of the stable boys as they feed, water and groom the horses, with introspective interviews with Nasser and his sons as they consider their futures. The film exposes the challenges of operating a high-cost, luxury operation in the working-class neighbourhood surrounding the Pyramids, and juxtaposes Nasser's ambitious dreams for his horses with the realities and instabilities of Egypt's economy. The film follows Goma’a to see whether he will live up to his father’s expectations and help save the family business, or whether he will forgo his duty to respond to the call of his activist friends in the run-up to the elections. Finally the film reveals the outcome of Nasser’s efforts: does the race go ahead? Will he be able to pass on the business that has been the life-blood of his family for generations to his son?
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