Al-Ahram Weekly Online
11 - 17 October 2001
Issue No.555
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Contested imagery

To be published next month by the Egyptian Film Critics Association, Censorship of the Cinema in Egypt: Limits and Binds is expected to set the cat among the pigeons. It includes, besides the testimonies of the present head censor and some of his predecessors, the statements of a number of cinematic figures -- mostly directors and actors -- and a comprehensive account of the legislation concerning the censorship of films in Egypt, including the texts of relevant laws.

The book also contains critical studies on the concept of censorship in the information age and the practice of censorship in Egypt, taking stock of recent theories and suggestions relating to the development of a better censorial system, based on a seminar that took place in the course of the Censorship and Banning Festival organised by the association earlier this year, in which, among other activities, four previously or presently banned films from Syria, Italy, France and the former Soviet Union were screened.

Return of Soad

A new book about the actress Soad Hosni, who died in June, has brought Egypt's unequivocal Cinderella back to the centre of attention.

Written by journalist and film critic Ashraf Gharib, Soad Hosni: Al-Hulm Al-Dai' (Soad Hosni: The Lost Dream) explores this "contemporary legend," as Gharib describes her, probing the various factors -- personal, artistic, social -- that contributed to her success. "Soad will remain among a handful of rare names in the history of Arab cinema, the audience having turned her into a star as soon as she made an appearance," he writes.

Dozens of articles, and not a few books, have already been written about Hosni since her tragic death in London, centring on both her phenomenal popularity and eventual demise. This book reportedly ignores sensational aspects of the Cinderella story, concentrating instead on "her value as an artist and a human being." A simply told biography, it nonetheless provides not a few original insights.

The book includes a full filmography and chronology of the artist's life.

Return of the native

The Port Said Festival for Theatrical Creativity (10-24 October) opened yesterday with the play Aman ya Bahr (Peace, Sea) by Ahmed Abul-Nour, a cultural official at the Governorate of Port Said.

Part of the Port Said Conference on the Horizons of Development, a project undertaken by the governorate in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture, the festival is a local event that aims, according to Abdel-Rahman Noureddin, the head of the Canal and Sinai Division of the ministry, to encourage theatrical creativity, accommodating the work of artists who have managed to penetrate mainstream channels.

Participating, Noureddin announced, are 14 troupes that represent the full range of theatrical activity in Port Said. The festival is headed by actor Mahmoud Yassin, a native of Port Said whose Cairo-based career has all but obscured his roots.

Women alone

A four-day conference on women's issues began last Sunday in Al-Wadi Al-Gadid Governorate. "Isolation and Creativity" was inaugurated by Governor Medhat Abdel-Rahman and Mohamed El-Sayed Eid, deputy of the Ministry of Culture. It was organised in conjunction with the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces, and headed by the celebrated novelist Khairi Shalabi.

Among the issues discussed was the role of women in local development projects: the seminar in question was attended by, among others, the writer Iqbal Baraka (editor of Hawaa magazine), the academic Samia El-Sa'ati (professor of sociology at Ain Shams University) and Zeinab El- Imam (Al-Ahram journalist).

The event included an exhibition of works by artists Heba Enayit and Tumader Turki.

Star-studded curtain

Last Friday an impressive group of Egyptian film stars began rehearsing a new stage comedy, Lamma Baba Yenam (When Daddy Goes To Bed), to open in the upcoming Eid. Written by Ahmed Awad, directed by Khalid Galal and produced by Essam Imam, the play features, among others, Yousra, Alaa Waleyeddin, Ashraf Abdel-Baqi, Hassan Hosni and Mahmoud El-Guindi.

For her part, Yousra expressed the hope that "this work will bring the Egyptian family back to the theatre," putting an end to the separation between the two brought about by the profusion of artistically and morally suspect commercial fare.

Lamma Baba Yenam, by contrast, is said to be a serious comedy. Depicting, in reportedly hilarious fashion, the hopes and fears of an average family, the play professes a true interest in the issues of present- day society.

Death in exile

Last Wednesday the death of Palestinian novelist Ahmed Omar Shahin, at the age of 65, in Cairo, brought the man of letters to the centre of attention once again.

"A Palestinian in Exile," ran the headlines of the poet's obituaries in the national press, which extensively quoted his most famous statement:

"If I do not live in my homeland for reasons beyond my will, that homeland still lives in me. Home and what happens there are never far from mind... It is almost as if only my body lives here, while my whole existence resides there."

Born in Palestine, Shahin arrived in Cairo in 1967, leading a peaceful, isolated life away from the conflicts of the literary world and its intellectual pretensions. It is said that his participation in literary life was limited to an occasional evening at the Cairo Atelier, where he spent time with the young.

Of Shahin's ten novels, Al-Mandal (Fortune Telling) and Hamdan Taliqan (Hamdan Unbound) are by far the best known. He produced, in addition, three collections of short stories and some 30 translations made from the English.

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