Cairo Drive - a film by Sherief Elkatsha

A road trip documentary of the times.

“Cairo is an essay in entropy…but order is nevertheless maintained, if barely.”

-- Maria Golia, Cairo: City of Sands

Cairo, Egypt. 20 million people. 23,600 miles of road. Two million cars. Taxis, buses, donkey carts, and swarms of people, all jockeying to move through the obstacle course that is their daily lives. Sitting at a cultural intersection, Cairo is a city unlike any other, where different faiths, races, and social classes all share a few clogged arteries of tarmac.

Cairo traffic is a chaotic experience where rules are constantly challenged: an elaborate dance of leading and following, flow and resistance, and impeccable, almost miraculous timing.

“Cairo Drive” is a documentary that explores the life of one of the world’s most populated cities—from its streets. Shot in 2009-2012 (before and during the Egyptian revolution, and ending with the most recent presidential elections), the film explores the country’s collective identity, inherent struggles, and the sentiments that lead through the historic changes taking place in Egypt today.

For years, Egypt has told two story lines: the official propaganda, and the reality on the streets. Nowhere is this clearer than on the roadways. The times have changed, the traffic has not.

For his third documentary, Egyptian/American filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha rides through the congested streets alongside a diverse cast of characters—from taxi drivers to ambulances, from traffic cops to private citizens—capturing the unspoken codes of conduct, frustrations, humor, fatalism, and life-or-death decisions of driving in a city where the only rule is: there are no rules.

Sherief Elkatsha

Filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha was born in the United States, raised in Cairo and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Elkatsha’s most recent documentary, Cairo Drive, won the award for Best Film from the Arab World - Documentary Competition at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

His first feature-length documentary, Butts Out, about five smokers and their struggles to quit, received the Best Documentary Award at the 2006 New England Film and Video Festival. The film was also an official selection at The Rhode Island International Film Festival, Rendez-Vous with Madness Film Festival, and the Hollywood DV Festival.

In 2007, Elkatsha co–directed and shot Egypt: We are Watching You with Jehane Noujaim (director of Control Room). The documentary captures pre-revolution politics in Egypt as seen through the eyes of a grass roots, pro-democracy activist group, The film was part of a series, “Why Democracy” and was broadcast on 42 networks around the world.

Elkatsha continued to document his native city as the director of photography for Cairo Garbage, directed by Mikala Krogh in 2009 as part of the “Cities on Speed” series. A collaboration between the Danish Film Institute and Danish Broadcasting Corporation, DR TV, the series has aired all over the world on various networks, including most recently on the Sundance Channel in April 2010.

In 2010, Elkatsha also shot and edited his first music video “Not To Write About Boys” for Supercute!, which premiered on Boing Boing.

Elkatsha is currently preparing to shoot his next film, a theme-driven exploration of female music composers in the Arab World.