Free Trip to Egypt

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Free Trip to Egypt Movie Poster Image
Docu about cross-cultural connection promotes empathy.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 98 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages people to see beyond racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes, to value understanding other culture and peoples, to be open-minded and empathetic enough to find common ground between people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Americans who go to Egypt all connect with their hosts, learn to appreciate the culture, clearly change their minds about what Muslims and Arab-speaking/Middle Eastern world are like. Terry and Ellen are especially vocal about change of heart, saying the trip helped them stop feeling racist against Muslims. Brian says he believes Muslims aren't against Christians or destined to go to hell. Even most devout of group see commonalities between themselves and their host family.

Violence

Discussion of what American families believe will happen to their loved ones if they visit Egypt includes mentions of torture, abduction, beheading. Katie reveals that her ex-husband was abusive to their child.

Sex

A husband and wife embrace, kiss briefly, and dance.

Language

A few uses of "f--k," "f---ing," "f--ked up," and "shut the f--k up," as well as a potentially upsetting conversation that treats a cultural practice as "Satanic," "forbidden," etc. by devout Christian and Muslim observers.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The group (all adults) goes to dinner a lot, and it looks like they're drinking, but it's not clear what.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Free Trip to Egypt is a documentary about Canadian Egyptian Muslim entrepreneur Tarek Mounib's labor of love to take a group of Americans to his family's homeland in order to foster cross-cultural appreciation. The film is based on the idea that Islamophobic Americans would have a change of heart if they could see firsthand that they have more in common with Egyptians than they might think. After some failed attempts to publicize his endeavor, Mounib is able to find a group of seven Americans to join him on the all-expenses-paid trip. There's infrequent strong language ("f--k" and variations thereof) and a few mentions of negatively violent stereotypes about Egypt: torture, beheadings, abduction, etc. One woman becomes distraught while discussing her ex-husband's abuse of her son. Families who watch will have plenty to discuss about the nature of racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes, the importance of understanding other cultures, and the power of human connection.

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What's the story?

FREE TRIP TO EGYPT is a documentary with a simple premise: During the 2016 election cycle, Tarek Mounib, a Candian Egyptian entrepreneur living in Switzerland, sees how Islamophobic America has become and decides to fund an all-expenses-paid trip to a handful of willing Americans -- if only he can find any who are willing to take him up on his offer. Earnest and mild-mannered, Mounib -- once an outspoken activist -- travels across the States attempting to find people who are ready for some cross-cultural enlightenment, on him. A few stunts fail to yield results, but after some in-person connections and a video plea, he rounds up older Jewish couple Ellen and Terry; three friends who are Evangelical Christians from Louisville, Kentucky (actress Jenna, Marine Brian, and Jason, who sees the trip as a missionary opportunity); Katie, a single mom and former Marine from Arizona; and Mark, a police officer from Kentucky. The trip pairs each American with an Egyptian host or family; together, the group goes sightseeing and gets to know one another.

Is it any good?

This film represents a feel-good small step in helping combat the Islamophobia and prejudice that many Americans unfortunately feel toward Muslims and foreigners. It's just too bad that Mounib (whose ability to fund this well-meaning project is never discussed) couldn't convince other Muslim financiers and executives to join him in providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Americans who think that all Muslims and Arabs are fundamentally opposed to the Western world. Of course, it's an even bigger shame that this documentary was even necessary -- and while it tries to stay apolitical, it's clear that President Trump's election rallies were a primary reason that Mounib felt compelled to start the project.

One downside to Free Trip to Egypt is that the group of Americans isn't more diverse: It's really three friends, a married couple, and two individuals. The story would have been even more powerful if, instead of the group of three Louisville pals, there had been three more strangers from different parts of the country. But Ellen and Terry, the older married couple, are particularly fascinating; they acknowledge that they've become xenophobes but don't want to stay that way, partially because their adult child lives in the Middle East. Jason, who never fails to evangelize in any given situation, and Jenna manage to connect with their religious Muslim host family. Brian, meanwhile, stays with a secular/activist young Egyptian woman who has an intelligent, international group of friends. By the end, everyone has predictably changed, believing in the humanity and the beauty of the people and nation of Egypt.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the lessons the Americans learn in Free Trip to Egypt. Why does Tarek believe it's important to introduce Americans to Egyptians? Does his experiment work?

  • How do the people in the film demonstrate empathy? Why is that an important character strength?

  • How are stereotypes addressed in the documentary? How are they dispelled?

  • What can we do individually to combat prejudice and discrimination?

Movie details

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