Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

EGYPT: Sex and jealousy

August 24, 2008 |  8:03 am

Movie_2 Despite its emphasis on sexuality, Aiten Amin’s first short movie, “Her Man,” has gained wide acclaim among movie fans and several critics in Egypt. The rising director surprised many Muslim viewers with an unflinching glimpse into the sexual and moral codes of Egypt’s urban poor.

Given her economic dependency on her husband, Zeina, the movie’s leading character, was forced to submit to the latter’s decision to take a younger bride for his second wife and move her into the same house. Yet Zeina’s submission was not complete. Here lies the most incendiary component of the story: To oust her adversary, she slept with her, leaving a mark on her breast to make their common husband, Sobhi, think that his new wife was cheating on him.

“I liked the story because it is so dramatic and it reflects human complexity,” said Amin.

The movie is based on a short story by the renowned London-based Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif.

“I was hesitant and a bit afraid at the very beginning to work on such a story, Dsc_0082_2 given its content. However, as I was very much in love with the book, I went forward with the idea,” Amin said. 

The movie shows how women in a particular social stratum are obsessed with sexuality. This point was well conveyed through the portrayal of the husband. Viewers never see Sobhi’s face, only his hands, lips and hairy chest. By focusing on his flesh, the director showed that the sexual component was a crucial element for the jealous wife.

Amin’s movie is part of the growing phenomenon of independent low-budget movies that cast non-famous, talented crews in Egypt.  Amin, a graduate of Cairo University’s commercial school, could not forsake her passion for cinema. After her graduation in 1999, Amin embarked on independent studies in movie making. “In independent movies, you do whatever you which, nobody imposes the topic or the cast on you,” Amin said.

Since it came out it in January 2007, “Her Man” was screened in many places around the world, including the U.S., France and Italy. It was awarded two prizes at home, including a best-movie prize at a newly launched film festival last week.

As big movie theaters do not usually screen short films, Amin’s movie is making it to the public in the auditoriums of cultural centers and bookstores.

In order to participate in an independent film contest this summer, Amin was asked to take 20 seconds out of her 10-minute movie where the two women were having sex. However, the embattled director preferred not to participate rather than distort her piece.

“I did not think my film was that provocative, especially that the sexual scenes were not imposed on the plot,” she said.

Still, Amin is satisfied with her first stint. “I did not expect that much attention for my film,” she added.

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photos: Zeina, the jealous wife, top, and the film director Aiten Amin

Sistani smiled and his voice sounded normal. The oldest reporter in our group asked the grand ayatollah about the rumors that he was sick. Sistani told us: “It was circulated recently some news about my health, which was not correct. It caused some anxiety to the believers in Iraq and the world. I advise journalists to deal with the news honestly.”

He let us know how much he valued our profession and told us he was upset over how many reporters had been killed and harassed in Iraq. “I am proud of you and your work, your work is important in transferring the truth to the people,” Sistani said. Listening to him, I felt such words from such a man meant journalists are important.

He then complimented the people of Najaf, his adopted home since he moved here as a young man from his birthplace near Masshad in eastern Iran. “I have lived in Najaf for more than 50 years since before Saddam came, and I lived here during the reign of the monarchy and the regimes that followed it, and I witnessed the courage of Najaf people in particular and the sons of Iraq in general. I wish you success,” he said. We had spent 10 minutes in his office. When he finished speaking, that was a signal it was time for us to leave. We told him: “Excuse us, Sayed.” He motioned as if he wanted to stand up to say goodbye, but we didn’t wish to burden him. Outside his office, others were waiting their turn.

Photo: Grand Ayatollah Sistani, from his official website, www.sistani.org.

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from all over the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "LA Times updates," and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Comments 

Advertisement