Shelving Egypt’s “Unvirtuous” Movies
By: Mohammad Khawly
Published Friday, January 13, 2012
The recently released Egyptian film Wahed Sahih was suddenly pulled from movie theaters to be re-examined by a censorship committee for “unvirtuous” language.
Cairo – “Early in the game, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown their true colors,” wrote art and cinema supporters on social networking sites in Egypt.
This statement and others like it were made in response to the authorities’ decision to withdraw the movie Wahed Sahih (A whole one) from Egyptian theaters.
“The Egyptian Board of Censors has said they intend to reevaluate the movie in order to delete some scenes and remove language that “deviates from public morality,” according to Sayed Khattab, the head of the board.
Khattab said that he plans to “form a committee to watch the movie a second time, a week after its release...because I received angry feedback on the expressions uttered by actress Basma [Hassan] in the movie.”
“If there is consensus on cutting these scenes, so be it, they will be removed,” added Khattab.
Alas, censorship thrives despite the revolution. Egyptian filmmakers are dealing with it, despite the fact that many of them are calling for its abolition.
Many works have fallen victim to censorship, sometimes under the pretext that they are “alien to Egyptian society” or that they “conflict with religion,” as was the case with the movie al-Mulhid (The Atheist).
In the case of Wahed Sahih – a movie directed by Hadi Bajouri, written by Tamer Habib, and starring Hani Salama and Hassan – censorship took a more dangerous turn.
The movie was pulled from the theaters after its release, as was done with the politically charged 1975 film, al-Karnak .
History is repeating itself today, “as if there was never a revolution,” one activist said.
Habib said that censors had originally approved his script but that he did not “know anything about the second committee that is going to watch it.”
He predicted that if a committee was formed, “it will comment on the scene between Hassan and Amro Youssef, because I know it is a shocking scene. Nevertheless, the language is very banal, we use it in our every day life.”
The offensive language had appeared before in other films such as Awkat Faragh (Free Time), according to Habib.
He suggested that pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood, or other Islamist political movements, may be behind the decision to re-evaluate the movie.
“If this is the case, it is nothing but cowardice and we should not accept it,” Habib declared.
The decision by Egyptian censors to review the film came only a few days after the director of the Egyptian Actors Union, Ashraf Abdel Ghafour,met with the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.
One of the topics of their discussion was the idea of a “clean cinema,” according to press reports.
Many questions remain regarding the decision of the board. Before the screening of Wahed Sahih, movie theaters played a trailer from the upcoming movie Banat el-Am (Cousins), during which a phrase was muted because it was considered “unvirtuous” by the censor.
Remarkably, it is the same expression uttered by Hassan in Wahed Sahih that the censors have now discovered as objectionable. It seems that it did not catch their attention when they approved the movie for release.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.