Entre Cineastas: Arab and Latin American Women's Film Festival

Wish I were there:

بين سينيمائيات

(بين سينيمائيات) هو مهرجان القاهرة الثاني لسينما المرأة العربية واللاتينية والذي يعقد في الفترة من 8 إلى 13 يونيو 2009 بمركز الإبداع في دار الأوبرا المصرية. و المهرجان هو جزء من مشروع "بين سينمائيات، برنامج تبادل سينما المرأة العربية واللاتينية". وهو مبادرة من شركة الإنتاج المصرية كلاكيت عربي والمؤسسة الثقافية كلاكيت لاتيني (إسبانيا). (بين سينمائيات) يحاول في عامه الثاني أن يقدم إلى الجمهور أفلاماً لم نتعود على رؤيتها في صالات السينما التجارية، وهي أفلام عربية وإسبانية ومن أمريكا اللاتينية وكلها مصنوعة من قبل النساء. إن الهدف الرئيسي هو التعرف على سينما تقدم بديلاً للطريقة التقليدية في التعامل مع المرأة، سينما تحاول أن تتخلص من النظرة النمطية ومن اللغة التي تكرس في حالات كثيرة عدم المساواة والتفرقة العنصرية والدينية والجنسية والثقافية، إنها سينما تساعد على إكتشاف وجهة نظر النساء، باعتبارهن صانعات للأفلام، فيما يحيط بهن من قضايا مختلفة في البلاد العربية وفي البلاد الناطقة باللغة الإسبانية. للحصول على برنامج المهرجان http://seefoundation.org/v2/images/ME_Agenda/entre_cineastas_2009_ar.pdf

============ (Entre Cineastas/Among filmmakers) (Entre Cineastas/Among filmmakers/بين سينيمائيات) is the 2nd Arab-Hispano-American Women Film Festival of Cairo, that will take place in Cairo from the 8th to the 13th of June 2009, @ the Artistic Creativity Center (Cairo Opera House Complex). The Festival is the result of a project initiated by Egyptian production company Klaketa Arabe and the Cultural Association, Klaketa Iberoamericana (Spain). Entre Cineastas or “Among filmmakers” is a cinema exchange program between Arab and Hispano-American countries that intend to offer the public some uncommon audiovisual productions created by women. The objective is to offer an alternative to the traditional representation of the woman; a space where they can represent themselves without stereotypes and avoiding the kind of discourse that contributes to ethnic, religious, sexual and gender discrimination. Check this link for the full program for the festival (dates & synopsis) http://seefoundation.org/v2/images/ME_Agenda/entre_cineastas_2009_en.pdf *************** The festival event-page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=93411417058 Official website for the project (Entre Cineastas) http://www.entrecineastas.com/
Thanks Zainab
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Zar Night in Cairo

For those in Cairo, the Egyptian Center for Culture and Art (Makan) is hosting a Zar music night performed by the Mazaher ensemble. I don't know what Zar music was used for when it first evolved but now adays Zar is known as the way through which some people in the recent past (and very very few people today) used to help get evil spirits out of somebody's soul (usually women suffering from some type of hysteria). At moments like these I wish superstition actually worked, we would have been able to drive the devils out of Gaza and Palestine altogether! Anyway, it sounds like an interesting cultural event and if I was in Cairo i would have attended, so I recommend going there, just one request, if anyone attends please take some pictures and write a couple of paragraphs about it and allow me to post it under your name on this blog. Below is the invitation:
(Zar Music & Songs)  On Wednesday 21 January, 2009 at 9:00 pm Mazaher is an ensemble in which women play a leading role. The musicians of Mazaher , Umm Sameh, Umm Hassan, Nour el Sabah are among the last remaining Zar practitioners in Egypt. The music is inspired by the three different styles musical styles of the Zar tradition practiced in Egypt. One of the African dimensions of Egypt, Zar music unfolds through rich poly-rhythmic drumming: it's songs are distinctly different from other Egyptian music traditions. The music of Mazaher is inspired by the three different styles of Zar music practiced in Egypt-the Egyptian or Upper Egyptian Zar, Abu Gheit Zar and the Sudanese, or African Zar. The ECCA is not researching or documenting the ritualistic aspects of the Zar, rather it focuses documenting and promoting this unique musical legacy. ECCA has gathered together some Zar performers and motivated them to go through lengthy sessions of rehearsing, remembering and recording. Mazaher is the result of these efforts. Doors open at 8:30pm. Tickets: 20 LE  Tea and Karkade are served To rsvp.  E-mail: makan@egyptmusic.org MakAn: 1 (Not 1a) Saad Zaghloul Street, 11461, El Dawaween, Cairo. (on the corner of across Saad Zaghloul and Mansour street)  Tel: 00202 27920878 http://www.egyptmusic.org
 
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Bosla Magazine

While reviewing everything I have posted or forgot to post about this year I realized there was one thing I should not have missed and that is this year's issue of Al Bosla, an Egyptian radical democratic annual publication in Arabic. So far Al Bosla has published four issues each of which deal with one topic that has a strong impact on the Egyptian social, political and economic situation. Each of these topics is dealt with from all possible angles through a democratic leftist/secular perspective. One thing I really like about Al Bosla is that, unlike other "know-it-all" local publications that recycle dominant misconceptions and call it "analysis", it is actually written by people who know what they are talking about. This year's issue is about Egyptian women. It tackles issues from the political (the position of women in society in the light of Islamists' struggle with the state) to the personal (the female body) and from the cultural (image of women in the cinema and theatre) to the literary (new feminist writings on the web). In addition to the main topic a few articles tackle issues of foreign policy, religion and leftist movements in Iraq. The second, third and fourth issues are all available online and if you are interested in local Egyptian politics I strongly recommend you read the previous issues as well.
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Tahiyah Halim

76.jpg Tahiyah Halim (1919-2003) is one of Egypt's famous artists. Born in Aswan to an Egyptian father who was close to the king and a Turkish mother from an artistic family, Tahiyah was taught at home by some of the best artists of the time, both Arab and European. She then travelled to France where she studied at the Academie Julian in Paris for three years. In 1958 she won the Guggenheim prize for her masterpiece, "Hanan". As you can see below, ancient Egyptian and local Nubian colors (such as degrees of black, brown, orange and red as well as green) abound in her work. 76-12.jpg imageviewaspx.jpg "Immigrant from the Nuba" 76-8.jpg "Hope for Peace" 76-6.jpg 76-9.jpg "The Village"
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Fak Al Jadayel

Earlier this September I attended the first year anniversary celebration of the Young Women's Forum which is part of the New Woman Foundation and it was there that i came across the first issue of their magazine Fak Al Jadayel (Undoing the Hair Plaits) with which I am really impressed. Traditionally Arab women used to let their hair grow long and then divide it into two plaits on each side of the head. With time the braids have come to symbolize social constraints and undoing them is thus a symbol of rebellion and hence the name of the magazine. In the first issue of this quarterly magazine the Young Women's Forum members discuss a lot of issues from sick Fatwas to disgusting movies and songs that objectify or subjugate women. The magazine also includes creative writings and reports of activities carried out by the YWF and reading it you become more optimistic about the future of women's movements in the country. The articles are very insightful and provide fresh critical voices. Unfortunately, the Foundation and its forum do not have a website yet so you won't be able to access the magazine online any time soon. However, if you are really interested in reading the magazine (which is in Arabic) let me know and I'll put you in touch with one of the members.
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Taimour wi Shafiqa, Omar wi Salma

taimour-wi-shafiqa.jpg In Cairo summertime also means Egyptian movie time, which in turn means that all our (not-so-giant) media producers come out with all sorts of commercial "talkies", mostly of the slapstick comedy type, so as to collect as much allowance money from gullible young school kids and dumb grown ups as possible. This year things are slightly different with two of the most talked about movies being, supposedly, romance stories. Based on the tradition of love legends like those of Qais wi Laila and Romeo and Juliet this summer Egyptians were bombarded with ads about Omar wi Salma and Taimour wi Laila (wi= and). The question of why guys' names always come first put aside, the two movies are anything but love stories. They are both a celebration of male chauvinist double standards and social hypocrisy. Omar wi Salma doesn't really deserve much discussion, it's all about a guy (Omar) and his dad who do nothing but chase women until the young man "falls in love" with the girl (Salma) with whom, for the rest of the movie, he keeps arguing and fighting because he can't control his urge to flirt with other women (he's a man you see!) and yet he loves her! While Omar wi Salma was criticized in press reviews for being a technically weak movie Taimour wi Shafiqa was described by a critic in an opposition paper as "Adam and Eve bared of social constraints" which, if you start counting the number of times the expression "I'm/ he's the man" is said in the movie, will make you wonder if this critic was stoned while watching it. Though Taimour wi Shafiqa is a much better on the levels of plot, script and acting than Omar wi Salma, it still is very sexist and deeply entrenched in social definitions of gender roles not to mention that it contains some amount of exaggeration and generalization. The movie starts with the voice of Taimour narrating his and his beloved's story since they were kids. How, being neighbors, he laid eyes on her the moment she was born and felt that she is his to love and protect and then Shafiqa takes up the narrative thread and tells the audience how he was the first thing she saw on opening her eyes on the world and how she knew instantly that he is her source protection and love. In short, from the very first ten minutes of the movie we are introduced to a man and a woman who take the traditional idea of "man = protection for woman" to a higher level; a level that strikes us as obsessively possessive. Since Taimour is "the man" what other manly job that can give him the chance to "protect" is there but the military or the police force? He joins the police force and from then onwards we see a lot of muscle exhibition scenes as his image as a mucho man is being construed. When he gets angry at other men he beats them up because, you see, he has so much "dignity" he can't stand being offended. When he gets angry at women, being "well brought up", he goes to his room smokes two cigarettes at the same time and starts push ups or boxing exercises to calm down. As for Shafiqa she is all that a modern independent girl can be; a success in education and hard working. Why the hell does she feel anything for a brainless, backward and possessive guy I can't really understand. Every time she speaks up to defend her right to choose what to do with her life she is belittled by his very traditional comments and ordered around: you can't wear this you can't wear that; you can't go out with your friends when I'm not with you; you can't talk to your male classmates! And she ends up obeying him. Half way through the movie they have a major argument after she goes to the beach with her girlfriends behind his back and he finds out. The result of the fight is that she decides she doesn't want him to control her any more and so they stop talking to each other for seven years during which he becomes a body guard for ministers and she gets her MA and PhD and becomes herself a minister, of environmental affairs, due to her unprecedented achievements in the field. And during this time one is falsely led to believe that the movie is finally supporting women's independence. However, by some twist of luck he becomes her body guard and the power struggle begins again. They realize they can't live without each other but since Taimour can't accept to be working for his wife and doesn't see why he should be the one giving up his job she gives up her position (after he rescues her from kidnap abroad) and they get married! What Taimour wi Shafiqa, which has been a box office hit this summer, is doing is to reemphasize what I have talked about earlier, the idea that woman is nothing if she's not married and with a home of her own.
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The Women and Memory Forum's Story Telling Night

Last week I had the greatest time ever attending a story telling event held by my favourite feminist NGO in Egypt, The Women and Memory Forum.

One of the main targets of the WMF is to rewrite our folklore from women's point of view and that is what it has been doing throughout its series of story telling evenings, the latest of which I was lucky to attend.

At 7:30 in the evening I made it to the Rawabet theatre with a friend of mine and one of my professors who I ran into during our hectic search for the theatre which is situated in a narrow side street (Al Nabarawy st.), Downtown, and soon after arriving the story telling begun.

This time the story telling event was entitled "Qalat Al Rawiyat… Ma Lamm Taqolhou Shahrazad" (The Female Story Tellers Say… What Shahrazad Never said) and as you can tell from the title it was based on the Arabian Nights except that they start from where Shahrazad left off, from the 1002nd night.

What I love about the stories is how subversive and empowering they are (for women, that is). In my favourite story Shahrazad is writing a letter to her sister, Doniazad, in which she describes her intimate relationship with her husband and asks her sister to burn the letter after reading it as they always do. Through the description of the development of their relationship Shahrazad emerges as the stronger partner while Shahrayar's apparent strength and tyranny are quickly discovered to be a cover for his weakness and lack of confidence.

While this story (written and told by Sahar El Mougy) shows Shahrazad as a very romantic and passionate woman, other stories show her as a clever and cunning woman or as a housewife trying to get rid of her husband's control.

Not all stories revolve around Shahrazad though, the majority of them are written in the form of stories that you could be reading from the original Arabian Nights with jinn and fairies and nymphs.

My two other favourite stories are that of "Sett Al Molk and the Bottles of Musk", written and read by Maha El Said and a romantic dialogue between Shahrazad and Shahrayar written by Mona Ibrahim. The first talks of a secret revolution for the right to dream and express oneself carried out by slave girls under the leadership of Sett El Molk the sister of the Caliph, while the second highlights the hypocrisy and the lies in men's promises to women.

In addition to the beautiful story telling techniques of the WMF members, the background music and the lighting were so perfect I regretted not taking my camera with me on this perfect night.

Luckily the stories told in this event were all collected along with some more stories in a book published by the WMF under the same title, and I bought myself copy.
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