Shelving Egypt’s “Unvirtuous” Movies

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"I received angry feedback on the expressions uttered by actress Basma [Hassan] in the movie,” Khattab said. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

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.


John Andrews, you are a troll. The outdated, moralistic language you use -- "good taste", "high morals", "promoting iniquity" -- suggests you yourself are some kind of "religious fanatic" (I will be generous and say "religious conservative", whether Christian, Islamic, or whatever. But in any case, you're definitely a troll.

Also, your statistics are completely false: in the initial election over 50% of the electorate voted for Shafiq or Sabahi (Sabahi would have been my choice if I were Egyptian, not that it matters), neither of whom were Islamists.

It's time Akhbar published more relevant material. This article proves that Akhbar management still side with the so-called elitist 8% who did not vote for Islamists. Hey, wise up guys! The Egyptian people (or at the very least, the great majority of it) is definitely more religious than you care to realise. Western media has already got the idea. The tide is turning. Choose which side you stand... with care.

So, you're suggesting that one should either align with political despots or religious fanatics?
I, for one, wish to be against both!


Who's talking of religious fanatics?
As far as I (and most western media today) can see, the Muslim Brotherhood are by no means 'religious fanatics'.
What I was saying, in any case, is that any human, by nature, should choose good taste and high morals. To insist on defending, even promoting iniquity, in an obviously religious society is both against nature and human rights. I would've thought that after Egyptian people have been so blatantly oppressed and their moral leanings (Islamic as they have been revealed now) bludgeoned by the likes of Akhbar, Ahram, Dostour, as well as the scores of video-clip TV channels and the many 24-hour porn channels deciphered free with every 'receiver box', for years,... well I think this must strike a fair-minded man as terribly irresponsible.

it is the people whom form morality and the government that represent it. not the government whom censors the publics work of arts and moral dispositions for their own political agenda. youve got it the wrong way around. id like to see your reaction if george bush did the same in america during his most popular years. what would america be today? what will egypt be in the future?

understandably, the egyptians are very religous, but islam isnt simply seperated into 2 movements, sunni and shiite, within it are a multitude of internal divisions based on cultural, ideological and political agendas, just as athiests are everywhere. to believe the muslim brotherhood represent all muslims in egypt is laughable, politics within the party on theological levels differentiate different candidates agendas in all political parties.

but if we allow censorship among one party line, than whos morality are we truly representing

"The Muslim Brotherhood are by no means 'religious fanatics'."
Well, you and other "western media today" should maybe read or research Sayyid Qutb and other Muslim Brotherhood views, or just wait a year or two to see their actions in Egypt.

Anyway, this is not the debate: the debate is whether freedom of speech and art expression is a fight worth fighting, against Mubarak regim or Muslim Brothers alike. And by the way, Mubarak regime was very much flirting with Islamists in the way censorship was applied to any "sexual" content.
Just compare Egyptian movies of the 60s to 80s to Egyptian movies now: old ones had much more explicit sexual content than now....

Cry me a river. Egyptian filmakers should learn to deal with making movies that don't sexually objectify their cast, or have bland, irrelevant stories.

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