Imagine yourself watching the movie “Alzheimer” by “Adel Emam”, when a younger relative asks you “What is Alzheimer’s?”. Most people would reply by saying: “It’s the cunning disease” and then ask God for protection, so nothing really proactive about that approach. However, Norhan Kamal, a Media Design applied arts senior and a self-employed animation-holic, decided to take unique approach by putting the viewers in an Alzheimer’s patient’s shoes; bringing in a more creative stance to the subject through her bachelor thesis.
Her medium? a whoopass 4000 frame, all hand drawn video carrying deep messages and symbols within, which is the usual with experimental art. What was unique about her approach though, was that she wasn’t trying to convey facts, statistics or even general information about Alzheimer’s. Instead she sought to deliver the “experience” to the viewer.”I’m not creating something new, Alzheimer’s has been around for years; however, what I am forging is the perspective of seeing and feeling Alzheimer’s” said Norhan.
Whilst researching the topic, Norhan met with the president of “The Alzheimer’s Association in Egypt”, who welcomed her with hostility and accused her of wasting his time with trivial questions. That however didn’t stop Norhan. She decided to start visiting the elderly at nursing homes, and this is where she met two very interesting elders with Alzheimer’s:
El Hagg Ibrahim & El Hagg Mostafa
“What they both have in common is their sense of imprisonment and isolation from the outer world, for example El Hagg Ibrahim still asserts that he currently sees and meets “Abdel Halim”. El Hagg Mostafa when asked if he had any children “shrugged” ;however, when his children came to visit he hugged them instantly. Neither of them ever used the term ‘forgetfulness’,which in a way sort of creates a new identity for both of them; since they aren’t really forgetting details of their lives. To them, they’re living their lives normally.“ Said Norhan.
When asked about the minimalistic approach Norhan used , she replied “Nothing is ever defined for them, everything deteriorates according to their memory even the characters themselves are featureless; they have no gender, no name, or social class. Just human bodies and cube heads. Since to us that’s their current identity. Nothing they see is as we see it; they are in a world of their own ”. Even very simple tasks -that we usually take for granted- start becoming challenges of their own. This was the main twist in ‘No more’, together with the sound effects, the hinted hallucinations, the way the character walked and the shakiness. “I wanted people to feel Alzheimers in just 5 minutes” explained Norhan. “I also wanted to give the video an Egyptian identity for example the song used was “يا مسافر وحدك “ by “Mohamed Abd El Wahab”, the remote hitting and bread dividing are all part of our culture.” Added Norhan.
And when asked about her motivation to pursue this topic she said: “People jokingly associate Alzheimer’s with forgetfulness when in reality it’s more than that, when you have Alzheimer’s you live the moment. You have no future. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and at one point she forgot my name.” explained Norhan. And when asked about any hardships she faced while working on her bachelor project she replied “My grandma passed away in the middle of the project. She never thought anything was wrong with her or even knew about my project, yet when she passed away I felt like I didn’t have the energy to continue; my creative engines stopped, but at the same time it was my fuel to continue”. Norhan then went on to thank her supervisors Ahmad Saqfalhait, instructor and acting head of the Graphics department, and Marouan Omara, Media instructor, saying “At one time I even had a nervous breakdown in front of my supervisor, yet they were very supportive and understanding.”
Norhan is currently planning on creating an animation studio in Egypt which attempts to educate viewers on critical issues. According to her,“The animation scene in Egypt is currently oriented towards children and even the animations don’t add a moralistic value, there is only the single purpose of empty entertainment like “Admiral Azooz”.
“No More” has been chosen along with 200 other short-films out of 1000 to be screened at the 6th Cairo Video Festival. It’s going to be screened at the 13th of November, 6.30 pm at Gezira Art Center in Zamalek. The opening of the festival was last Saturday at 7 pm, screening films from around the world until the 20th.