LUXOR stars Andrea Riseborough (Birdman, Oblivion), Karim Saleh (“Transparent,” “Counterpart”) and Michael Landes (Gold, Just Wright). The film was directed and written by Zeina Durra (The Imperialists Are Still Alive!) who’s debut feature The Imperialists Are Still Alive! premiered at Sundance 10 years ago.
SYNOPSIS: When British aid worker Hana returns to the ancient city of Luxor, she comes across Sultan, a talented archaeologist and former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present.
DIRECTORS STATEMENT: The unsettling darkness of our times made me want to write this story set in a place which is a monument to past civilisations whose central beliefs, temples and obsession with the afterlife, were all rooted deeply in the idea of light overcoming darkness. I then started to think about a time when things seemed simpler and I questioned whether that was because of one’s youth/naïveté or because the world was in a place that seemed more hopeful, moving in a direction that was more just. For me, that period when things seemed simpler was in my early twenties. Then I began to think about the idea of meeting someone twenty years later who you were once close to, in love with, and hopeful with, and it seemed like it would be a good way to explore this theme. That way you would be able to directly see this passing of time and where it has brought you or what choices you made and how they shaped your life. I sense (and I’m sure most people do) a great confusion and a lot of fear with the rise of the far right, the questions that are raised by our inability to control or understand where technology is taking us like the internet, questions about controlling it and censorship, and the instability of division and war. Hana is a char- acter who has put herself at the forefront of the instability by working as a surgeon at a clinic on the Syrian border. She is exhausted after her post, the struggle between life and death that she saw on a daily basis has taken its toll. The pain that she carries after witnessing these atrocities, firsthand, weighs her down and of course makes her ask a lot of existential questions. She is also a woman in her early forties and her own window to be a mother is closing. Luxor is a city of archeology. The excavation of the ancient sites is so similar to psychoanalysis and works in a very visual way, the digging up, the excavation. Freud was particularly obsessed with archeology. If you go to his study in Hampstead, London, you can see his collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. He believed that excavation of the mind is essentially what psychoanalysis is and that he could learn from archeology. I loved this idea and felt that the imagery of the digs and sites, was a strong non-verbal way of addressing Hana’s existential crisis, something that will stay in the audience’s subconscious. I wanted to make a film that transports people to this amazing place, but I didn’t want them to escape into some kind of orientalist fantasy, I wanted the themes of our times to be present.