Above the knees
The shooting of a TV series in Ain Shams University was halted after the actresses wore what was described as indecent attire, Reem Leila
Several students at the Engineering Faculty of Ain Shams University last week prevented actress Nelly Karim and the accompanying crew from shooting a series called Al-Dhat, or self. The incident was due to what the students described as "short skirts" worn by actresses working in the series. Misr International Films, the production company, had the necessary papers issued by the university administration to shoot the series on the campus. But the shooting of the series, which was supposed to be shown on TV in Ramadan, has been halted following continued demonstrations on the university's campus.
Dean of Engineering Faculty Sherif Hammad said students were furious because of the type of clothes worn by actress Karim and the accompanying actresses. "I tried to calm them down but failed. I will try again in the next few days especially since the series crew all have official permits," said Hammad. "Students are against resuming the shooting unless the actresses' costumes are replaced by more decent ones," Hammad added.
In a statement issued by the production company on the incident, "student members of the Muslim Brotherhood who belong to Ain Shams University's student union prevented the series crew from shooting the scenes at the university but that shooting will be resumed shortly."
Islamists have become a powerful force in Egyptian society especially after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak as president last year, winning more than two-thirds of the seats in the recent parliamentary elections. They are expected to enjoy a similar result in the Shura Council elections.
Sociologist Ali Mahmoud, professor at the Faculty of Arts in Ain Shams University, believes that what happened at the university came because of an upswing phase society is going through. "It will end soon," Mahmoud said. When people face a certain crisis, according to Mahmoud, they resort to religion. "Society as a whole is in tumult so they resort to God but only superficially. Wearing the hijab (head veil) and growing beards is a shallow way of expressing piety, however. This is what most people were doing. Most people are now superficially and not genuinely religious. They are applying this shallowness on trivialities and how people should be dressed, although the whole incident was only acting, not real life. It shows that people's piety is phony," said Mahmoud.
Gabri Khouri, head of the production company, told the press, "I cannot set a definite date for resuming the shooting but I hope it will be as soon as possible because we are running out of time." Khouri was fuming by the clothes being described as "indecent". "The skirts are short but not very short. It is essential for actresses to wear them for credibility. I can't change the costumes," said Khouri. The series is taken from the novel Al-Dhat written by Sunallah Ibrahim. Its events take place in the 1970s, when many Egyptian women used to wear skirts above the knees. "Back in the 1970s, women used to wear short skirts and dresses. Do I have to change history to please a bunch of students? There should be credibility in what we present to people or they won't believe us," said Khouri.
The series is written by Mariam Naoum, directed by Kamla Abu Zekri, and stars Karim, Bassem Samra, Intissar, Nahed El-Sebaai, Hani Adel, Injy Khattab, Salwa Mohamed Ali and Ahmed Kamal. It narrates Egypt's history between the 23 July and 25 January revolutions. The series begins with the birth of Dhat (Karim) on 23 July and ends with her death on 25 January. Throughout the dramatic events, a series of political and humanitarian stories about people of that time, are presented.
Actress Karim told the media that everything at the beginning was "quiet and moving smoothly. Everyone was treating the crew elegantly and gently. They were even asking to have their pictures taken with us. Several university professors and students were very helpful, until the university's student union declared its opposition to costumes worn by the actresses. What happened is a true humiliation of the arts, actors and actresses in Egypt. We are trying to present a highly elevated type of acting to people. Unfortunately, students refused to listen to any of us," stated Karim. "None of our costumes was indecent as they claimed," she added.