Stop or final stop, workplace or home: Train stations are vibrant meeting places, in Zurich as well as in Cairo.
“Our railway symbolizes all of Egypt,” says the cleaning service manager proudly. She continues in the documentary, which lasted about 80 minutes, “Cairo is the mother station.” That’s why you should always be as nice, clean and tidy as your family.
When asked about the double burden, the assertive woman takes a blunt stance. Referring to traditional gender roles and comparing them to her demanding daily work: “I leave home as a mother and start working as a man. I must wear a mustache, tie my eyebrows, and work with all kinds of people.”
The story of this manager who guides the cleaning crew of men day in and day out is one of many beautiful tales. Director Sandra Jesse calls them “side stories from the main stations” in the subtitle. “The Station” is the second feature film that I directed with the Egyptian Ahmed Abdel Mohsen.
To move between worlds
“The train stations in Zurich and Cairo are the starting point for both our trips,” Gysi says in an interview. She herself was drawn to Egypt over and over again at a young age, then moved to Egypt for years.
Ahmed Abdel Mohsen did the opposite: he left Aswan to start a new life in Switzerland. In the meantime, the two feel like home to both countries and live both in the city of Limat and on the Nile.
So the two main train stations in Zurich and Cairo came to mind as their latest joint film project slowly began to take shape. The result is a documentary that connects the two cities through parallel montage while highlighting the differences between them.
Different countries, different rhythms
Cairo’s friendly, chaotic culture contrasts with Zurich’s meticulous organization. Travelers at Egypt’s main railway station wait for trains very patiently, despite the sweltering heat and long waiting times.
In the perfectly air-conditioned HB Zurich, a completely different picture emerges: there, people are already annoyed with the two-minute delay in leaving.
The cities’ different personality traits seem to lie in their names: Cairo looks like Kairos, the Greek god at the right moment. In light of our prosperity problems, the Zurich syllabaries can easily be distorted to state the case: very rich. omen name…
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This fits with what a modest security woman at Zurich’s main train station says in the film: “I can’t change the world. But enforce the house rules every day.” A little later you will ask the drunk to get up from the ground. They supported him with words and deeds as he vomited in the trash: “It is beautiful, everything is useful!”
With these mystical moments, the brilliantly timed film illustrates what remarkable structures of train stations are. Of course, they are among the most closely watched places in our society.
However, many people from all over the world feel that they are in good hands. Like the chef of a restaurant at Cairo’s train station, which after 20 years of work is still evident, influenced by its bustling setting: “The train station is my home.”
Theatrical release: September 15, 2022
SRF Radio 2 Kultur, Cultural Bulletin, September 15, 2022, 7:06 am.