Shooting Sheikha Mozah
Published Monday, May 21, 2012
A new Egyptian film project about Qatar’s Sheikha Mozah is stirring controversy. Islamist Members of Parliament are demanding that it be banned, even though the script has not yet been written.
Cairo - Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, the wife of the Qatari emir, studied in Egypt and makes a point of staying in touch with her old high school and her teachers. But the fluctuating relationship between Egypt and Qatar has clouded her image in the minds of many Egyptians.
This controversial relationship prompted journalist and writer Mohammad al-Baz to document her biography in a book titled Sheikha Mozah: Queen in Search of a Throne (2012).
Al-Baz found that screenwriter Mustafa Ammar and film director Ali Ragab, who directed My Aunt France, Karkar, and Reklam, shared his interest. They decided to team up and adapt the book for a film and are now working on the script.
It was not until Ragab recently announced his suggestion to give the lead role to actress Ghada Abdul Razek that the project was forced into the limelight.
Abdul Razek, star of the TV series Zahra and Her Five Husbands, denied being offered the role of Sheikha Mozah. The filmmakers said that their proposal was not formal, but a mere suggestion that had not even been offered to the actress.
Nevertheless, Abdul Razeq's decisiveness in turning down the role in advance did not worry al-Baz, Ragab, or Ammar. Al-Baz said that the project "still stands and we will announce its details at the right time."
Their determination to pursue the project came after several Members of Parliament, representing religious-based parties, submitted a request at the National Assembly calling for the project to be cancelled "to protect the good relations between Egypt and Qatar."
The request was widely seen as premature in its assumption that the film will harm ties between the two countries. But no one has read the script, which is still being developed.
The request falls under the jurisdiction of the censorship department, which have to read the script before deciding whether to approve or reject it. The MPs were rejecting the very concept of the film, in an unprecedented move never faced by filmmakers before or since the January 25 revolution.
"How does Parliament find the time to think about these matters? Is this what we were waiting for from the revolution's National Assembly? To ban thought and restrict creativity?" reacted Ragab.
Those seeking to abort the film project, Ragab charged, "are beneficiaries of Sheikha Mozah and her interference in Egypt's internal affairs; and beneficiaries of political Islam’s exports to Egypt."
He continued, asking: "Why was there no request made to ban the interference of Sheikha Mozah in Egypt's internal affairs?"
On the film's content, al-Baz said that it will look at Qatar's policies in recent years through the character of Sheikha Mozah.
It will open with her last visit to Cairo, but will flash back to the Qatari emir overthrowing his father and Sheikha Mozah's role in supporting Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah's regime.
The film will depict her strong international ties and the Qatari role in the Arab Spring. Al-Baz added that the movie will also talk about Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and other Egyptian politicians connected to Sheikha Mozah.
Even after finalizing the script, submitting it for censorship approval and finding a producer ready to finance the film, Gulf distributors are not likely to support it.
Thus, the Sheikha Mozah film project will remain a controversial time bomb until the camera starts rolling and the first scene is shot, regardless of who plays the leading role.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.