Fe­male-led films at Cairo Cin­ema Days

The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Ne­hal Samir Poster for Look­ing for Umm Kulthum film

The sec­ond edi­tion of Cairo Cin­ema Days, screenings or­gan­ised by Zawya Cin­ema,kicked off last Mon­day,aim­ing to high­light the pro­duc­tions of Arab cin­ema by pre­sent­ing in­de­pen­dent Arab films which crit­ics praised and that par­tic­i­pated in many re­gional and in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals.

The films will be screened from 23 to 30 April at sev­eral cine­mas: Karim, Ci­maTech in Down­town, and Cin­ema Za­malek.

Daily News Egypt takes a closer look at the films cho­sen by the fes­ti­val to dis­cover the films that ad­dress prob­lems, ob­sta­cles, and vi­o­lence faced by women in the Arab world, and also cre­ated by women, re­sist­ing the male-dom­i­nated film­mak­ing in­dus­try, prov­ing that women can be good direc­tors, script writ­ers, etc.

Ala Kaf Afret

Among these films is “Ala Kaf Afret”, which was di­rected and writ­ten byTu­nisian di­rec­tor Kaouther Bin Ha­nia, pro­duced in 2017.

The story of the film is adapted from an ac­ci­dent that oc­curred in 2012 dur­ing which a fe­male univer­sity stu­dent who stud­ies at a univer­sity in­Tu­nis and goes to a party with her friends, then falls in love with a young man at the party that she met for the first time. Af­ter that, she de­cided to walk with him to a ho­tel. Dur­ing her walk, three po­lice­men stopped them, raped the young wo­man, and ex­torted the male.

The story is in­spired by mem­oirs pub­lished by the Tunisian girl un­der the ti­tle “My sin is that I got raped”.

The film presents, in an hour and a half, the de­tails of her rape by the po­lice­men, re­view­ing her suf­fer­ing with the male-driven so­ci­eties that view her as the one re­spon­si­ble for that vi­o­la­tion.

It doc­u­ments the suf­fer­ing of the girl who seeks to com­plain and gain her rights, while the au­thor­ity meant to re­ceive the com­plaint and trans­fer it to pros­e­cu­tion is her op­po­nent.

The film shows,boldly,the dis­grace­ful prac­tices of some Tunisian po­lice­men against cit­i­zens that were prac­ticed be­fore the fall of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

It was screened at the 70th Cannes Film Fes­ti­val and screened at the 14th Dubai In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val’s Arab nights sec­tion.

The lead ac­tress of the film, Mariam Al Fer­jani, pre­vi­ously said in a panel dis­cus­sion on the side­lines of the 14th Dubai In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val that she did not meet the vic­tim be­fore shoot­ing and that she re­lied only on read­ing the de­tails of the in­ci­dent as well as the book that the girl wrote about it.

She con­tin­ued that she met her af­ter the screen­ing of the film, and that she was very ex­cited to learn about her opin­ion of it.

The vic­tim thanked her a lot,Al Fer­jani said, de­scrib­ing that as the best award she re­ceived.

“It took four months to pre­pare the film, while the film­ing took only five weeks and the film re­ceived sup­port from theTu­nisian Min­istry of Cul­ture in its pro­duc­tion,” Al Fer­jani stressed.

Walili (Vol­u­bilis)

The filmWalili was also pro­duced in 2017, di­rected by Moroc­can di­rec­tor Fawzy bin Saed. It presents a love story be­tween Abed El Kader, a se­cu­rity guard, and Ma­lika, a ser­vant.

The newly mar­ried cou­ple love each other, de­spite the fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties they face.As the story un­folds, the film rep­re­sents the suf­fer­ing of the so­ci­etal class that in­cludes ser­vants and the ob­sta­cles that they face, in­clud­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment and the in­fe­rior look they re­ceive from the rest of so­ci­ety.

Look­ing for Umm Kulthum

The film Look­ing for Umm Kulthum is an­other one of the films that was cho­sen by the fes­ti­val, pro­duced in 2017.

The in­ter­est­ing thing about the film is that its di­rec­tor and pro­duc­ers are not Egyptian, de­spite it be­ing about an Egyptian singing icon.The film is di­rected by Iranian Sheren Nashat and is a joint pro­duc­tion of com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions from Ger­many, Aus­tria, Italy, and Morocco.

It is a fem­i­nist film, as it deals with the strug­gles and sac­ri­fices that Umm Kalthum made un­til she was able to cross the red lines of so­ci­ety, reach­ing the throne of art.

Nashat did not fo­cus in the film on the jour­ney of Umm Kalthoum in singing and how she be­came the most im­por­tant singer in Egypt in her time.

In­stead, she re­fo­cused on pre­sent­ing the strong per­son­al­ity of Umm Kulthum and how in­flu­en­tial she was.

Umm Kulthum, in the film, in­flu­ences the heroine,who is a di­rec­tor liv­ing in ex­ile, mak­ing her de­cide to make a film about the life and art of Umm Kulthum, with a look at the strug­gle and ob­sta­cles that she faced.

The char­ac­ter of Umm Kulthum is rep­re­sented in the film by three ac­tors: Noor El Amar, who per­forms the char­ac­ter dur­ing child­hood, Yas­mine El Rayes, play­ing Umm Kulthum as a young wo­man, and ac­tress Na­jia alSaqli, por­tray­ing her as an old wo­man.

For her part, El Rayes pre­vi­ously told Daily News Egypt in an in­ter­view that it took about three months for her to pre­pare for the role of Umm Kulthum in the film.

El Rayes stressed that the film also rep­re­sents Egyptian his­tory and its vari­abil­ity from 1920 to 1975, in the form of an in­ter­est­ing drama, not in the form of a doc­u­men­tary.

She ex­plained that the dif­fer­ence be­tween the film Look­ing for Umm Kulthum and other works pre­vi­ously made about the star is that the other works fo­cused only on her life, but Look­ing for Umm Kulthum fo­cuses on how the singer was in­flu­en­tial in the life of peo­ple in gen­eral and the life of the film’s heroine in par­tic­u­lar.

El Rayes as­sured that Umm Kulthum was a re­bel­lious and coura­geous fig­ure who could im­pose her­self dur­ing an era in which power was usu­ally re­served for men, mak­ing her­self the dom­i­nant wo­man singer among many gi­ant male singers over many gen­er­a­tions, pen­e­trat­ing many bar­ri­ers in her eastern so­ci­ety.

The film was screened at Ham­burg Film Fes­ti­val in Ger­many last Oc­to­ber, par­tic­i­pated in the 74th Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val,as well as at the 42nd Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

Zawya was es­tab­lished by Misr In­ter­na­tional Films (MIF) in March 2014 as the first art-house cin­ema in Egypt,lo­cated in Down­town’s Cin­ema Odeon.

Zawya screens dif­fer­ent types of films, in­clud­ing short films, doc­u­men­taries, fea­ture films, and ex­per­i­men­tal works. It has a pro­gramme that is di­vided be­tween the­atri­cal re­leases and special events.

Its pro­gramme aims at sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing young Egyptian and Arab film­mak­ers’ in­de­pen­dent work.

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