A documentary by Ingrid Serban. In English and Arabic, with English subtitles. Rated PG
As with lunch, nothing is really free, but the trip here is still worth taking.
Born to Egyptian parents in Halifax, Tarek Mounib grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Switzerland, where he has several tech companies, and he was alarmed at what he saw on a trip to the U.S. after the most recent presidential election.
In 2017, the perpetually smiling Mounib wore a red cap to a Trump rally, shouting the future movie title to understandably wary supplicants.
He eventually met a musclebound army veteran there out of curiosity, as well as a black policeman doing security; both said they’d be open to visiting a Muslim country, despite antipathy towards that religion.
Taking his campaign online, Mounib gathered another ex-soldier (a heavily tattooed single mom this time), an evangelical proselytizer, a Kentucky beauty queen and B-film actor, and an elderly Jewish couple worried about their son, who was working in Saudi Arabia.
“I did the whole ’60s thing,” says the wife, “and now I’m so racist I can’t stand myself.”
Of course, that degree of self-awareness already sets apart the chosen travellers from those who would turn down 10 paid days at a nice hotel in Cairo.
Mounib paired up his Koran-curious crew with willing locals, who ranged from full-hijab-wearing types to free-thinking hipsters. What’s interesting here, in appropriately haphazard footage shot by Romanian-American Ingrid Serban, is that people gravitate towards those most like themselves.
For example, when the most fundamentalist Muslims of the group take offence at a folkloric dance group claiming Islamic roots, the evangelical Yanks leave the party with them.
On the other hand, it’s the American cop who shakes his head in dismay when his Egyptian pal starts yelling about the greatness of Donald Trump. And it’s the beefy ex-soldier who plays Beethoven on the hotel-lobby piano.
Because wherever you go, you never really know.