A French director of Egyptian origin has made a film about the appearance of bizarre religious apparitions witnessed by Christian Egyptians, in Zeitoun in 1968.
'The Virgin, the Copts and Me' - director Namir Abdel Messeeh's first feature film, follows Messeeh as he investigates sightings of the Virgin Mary by Egypt's Christians, also known as 'Copts.' Presented at this year's Cannes and Berlin film festivals, the director has spoken about his relationship with the thirty-eight Copts featured in the film, as well as their relationship with Egypt's Muslims and the multiple fractures that exist in Egyptian society. Half film, half documentary, the idea was born from a night spent watching an old videotape of of one of the many apparitions of the Virgin Mary in a village in Egypt, with Messeeh's family. Whilst Messeeh's mother claimed to have seen the apparitions on screen, Messeeh saw nothing, and decided to investigate.
As well as offering a glimpse into the conditions of life in rural Egypt, The Virgin, the Copts and Me focuses on the peculiarities of religious divides in country. "Muslims don't like the Copts, and the Copts don't like Muslims; but everyone hates Jews and and are devoted to the Madonna", explains Messeeh. Like many before him, non believer Messeeh uses the film to cast doubt on the apparitions, suggesting that they were the result of a government campaign to unite Muslims and Christians in the wake of Egypt's loss of Sinai to Israel.