Los Angeles Times - June 6th, 2019
As a Canadian Egyptian and a Muslim, entrepreneur Tarek Mounib has a lofty goal: to unite Muslims and those Americans who fear them. The documentary “Free Trip to Egypt” offers no judgment of anyone on either side; instead, it celebrates the opportunity for the two groups to find common ground.
Mounib’s strategy is to offer Americans an all-expenses-paid vacation to Egypt, where they will meet Muslims and challenge the ideas they’ve learned from the U.S. media — as well as to introduce the Egyptians to people who may differ from those they’ve seen in exported American content.
Before leaving on the trip, one participant says, “I’m so racist now I can’t stand myself,” and it’s immediately clear that the journey will be more than just a physical one. Profound change happens as the diverse travelers encounter an equally diverse group among the Egyptians with whom Mounib has paired them.
There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about the filmmaking in “Free Trip to Egypt,” but first-time feature director Ingrid Serban succeeds in telling a simple story in a simple fashion, and it’s an effectively moving effort. The documentary skims over some details and gives far more time to the Americans’ stories than their Egyptian counterparts, but the film is sincere and features some truly poignant moments, particularly in how the trip affects the Americans both while they’re abroad and in the months following.
‘Free Trip to Egypt’
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also June 12 only, Fathom Events screenings in various theaters