Ritesh Batra’s short film from 2011 is all about a conversation at a cafe in Cairo. A woman (Mai) has just returned from a trip and is waiting to meet her boyfriend (Alaa), whom she has been seeing for two years. The couple is obviously close, but struggling with local cultural traditions – Mai wants them to consummate their relationship even before they are married and Alaa is worried about the repercussions for her and is difficult. It is very refreshing to see a woman ask for something taboo here while the man is the more passive one.
Batra stages the entire 11-minute film in an outside cafe. There’s not much action, except a waiter stopping by to take an order and passersby on the street. The focus is simply on Alaa and Mai and their conversation. Because so little happens on the screen, there’s a greater emphasis on Batra’s words, which are beautifully written. The conversation feels organic and true, as if this were a real couple with real problems.
The film has won several awards across festivals, including the Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) for Best Film at International Short Film Festival Oberhausen , Jury Special Mention at Tribeca Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival, and the Best Short Film – German Star of India