Review by James Lindforf
After a recent terror attack, Tarek Mounib, a Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur of Muslim faith, felt compelled to reach out to those who fear people like him. He offered them the chance of a lifetime: a free all-expenses paid trip to Egypt to build a bridge of understanding, and maybe even friendship. He traveled across the United States to find people who were concerned about a perceived Islamic threat but were open to learning. Free Trip to Egypt will have a one-week theatrical runs in New York City beginning May 31st, and in Los Angeles June 7th, along with a one-night Fathom Event on June 12th, where it will be shown in over 500 theaters across the country.
Traveling from California to New York with many stops in between, Tarek was able to build a diverse group of travelers that included a teacher, police officer, Marine Corps veteran, single mom, preacher and beauty pageant queen. Every one of them has some preconceived notion about the people they were going to meet. A fearful retired teacher and her husband were united with a young Egyptian revolutionary. A Christian missionary and a born-again, former Miss Kentucky are housed with an orthodox Muslim family where the mother wears a burqa. With their fear and mistrust rooted in racism and xenophobia or disagreements over religion, every one of them was going to be tested.
Tarek partnered with Director Ingrid Serban and a half dozen cinematographers to create a beautiful and surprisingly cohesive looking film. I enjoyed their movie, but there is a chance that they started on shaky ground by picking people who were willing to learn and potentially embrace vastly different people. Unfortunately, since this isn’t a fictional film and you can’t force someone on a plane to Egypt for a week, we don’t get to see transformations in the more intolerant people that Tarek came across on his search. There did seem to be a few genuine insights and real growth in the group, especially on the part of the teacher’s husband. However, it becomes clear that not everyone may be an honest player and could be there for their own reasons.
Tarek should be commended for his willingness to try and bring people together and for being successful on his mission. I just question how far-reaching the impact of the film can be. Are the genuinely bigoted going to turn on this film without pressure from their friends and family? Highly doubtful. The audience that will be most excited for this film is probably the group that needs it the least. While the film may be limited in its reach, the change Tarek instilled in some of his travelers and what they will teach their friends, family, and more importantly, their children will be his lasting legacy.