Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not everything that is banned is good/we Ahmed Ezz maalu?

I voluntarily went to the cinema to watch Donia tonight. It turned out to be a particularly foolish act of masochism.

My interest in the film derived from the fact that media reviews had touted it as a bold film which crosses Egyptian cinematic red lines, tackles thorny issues such as female genital circumcision and, as a result of this audacity, had been banned by those reactionary killjoys with their busy scissors at the Ministry of Mind Control. Egyptian films seem largely to fall into one of two broad categories; arty/independent or mass consumption, by which latter is meant either Ahmed Ezz or Hany Salama in a car chase, or Mostafa Qamar/Khaled Selim running in slow motion on a beach with Dalia el Bekheiry/Nelly, all laughing uproariously at some unheard joviality and the sheer magic of life. Having had my fill of implausible plot lines and la la land Egypt First, what Religious Sectarianism?© propagandising with el Raheena , I looked forward to watching Donia. By the end of it I was longing (even more strongly than I usually do) for Ahmed Ezz surviving a 4000 foot drop off a cliff, and Russian actors pretending to be American. As Sharshar said once he had regained his ability to talk after seeing it “law makanoosh mana3ooh kont ana hamna3oo” [If they hadn’t have banned it, I would have.]

The film simply had no plot, but rather was a series of the following self-contained, apparently unrelated scenes: [Excruciatingly long, but friends share pain, right?]

- Hanan Turk does Kate Bush style dancing in a circle, while a very camp Walid Aouni with a frankly ridiculous accent (yes yes kettle and pot) and Corella Deville hairstyle entreats her to “truly feel the music” and “focus all her weight on the pivot” as she is “surrounded by the universe…the UNIVERSE….the never-ending UNIVERSEEEEE” as he himself waves his arms in the manner young children use to represent trees swaying in the wind during school plays.
- Fathy Abdel Wahab lurks in waiting for Hanan in a pervy stalker manner, and confesses his love for her after he descends upon her. Hanan rebuffs him in a playful way, but her cheeky smile, and the fact that she is standing so close to him that she is practically inhaling his nipple, tells us that she is Hot for Him.
- An overweight woman appears in a very short nightgown and belly dances.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights.
- Hanan dances again, this time against the backdrop of a giant poster which is meant to be her mother. That it is actually Hanan Turk is plainly obvious to all.
- Aida Riad drives a taxi while smoking, for she is a Woman Who Doesn’t Give a Fig About Social Conventions.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, this time while topless and wiping his sweaty face all over the body of a woman wearing 407 bangles.
- Fathy jumps out from behind Aida’s taxi and tells Hanan that he loves her.
- Hanan dances. Walid is camp.
- Four overweight women dressed in what can only be described as opaque coloured cling film belly dance.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, but this time he is blind. He has lost his vision at some indeterminate moment - possibly during the five minutes that my companions and I were debating whether to get up and leave.
- Aida drives her taxi.
- Fathy and Hanan marry. Hanan wears a wedding dress made out of paper, and gets on the back of a lorry carrying a wardrobe, laughing playfully.
- Hanan and Fathy experience problems in the bedroom, largely because Hanan is eggs and consumed by feminist and existentialist angst which she simply must share with both us and poor old Fathy, who himself just wants a bit of how’s your father.
- Mohamed Mounir, this time not railing against the banning of 1001 Nights, teaches a young boy letters drawn in the sand, in an isolated spot in the desert. Blind Mohamed is led by the arm placed on the young boy’s shoulder, but nonetheless insists on extending the other arm in front of him in a comedy sleep walking manner, just in case he should bump into any buildings left carelessly in the desert.
- Hanan dances, but this time a pouting Walid is angry with her for absenting herself for ten days. He lambastes her in a super bitch way while sitting on a stool a la Boy George, clutching an invisible handbag. Hanan works through her rage by attempting to dance, in a defiant Rocky manner, but Walid and his handbag tell her that “she is not really with him.” Hanan responds by removing the pencil holding up her hair and breaking it in two (why??). The music ends dramatically with the snap and a close-up on the pencil and Hanan’s slightly squinting eyes. Walid fumes. The scene brought to mind a preposterous homosexual Million Dollar Baby. On the ground surrounding Hanan are ten male dancers doing backstroke. We don’t know why.
- Aida drives her taxi with Mohamed Mounir railing against the banning of 1001 Nights in the back.
- Hanan dances, and then Walid makes her eat a rose.
- Mohamed Mounir enters a music store and rails against the banning of 1001 Nights. Meanwhile, the audience wonders whether the director deliberately left a poster advertising Mounir’s latest album in plain view behind him. Is this post-modern irony or an oversight?? Do we care??
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, and receives a gift of an uncensored Indian version of the tome, brought to him by Hanan. He briefly regains his vision and sees the birthmark on Hanan’s neck. Sharshar says that the birth mark switched between the right and left sides of Hanan’s neck. This shouldn’t be attributed to continuity problems of course. Rather, it symbolises the constant objectification of women in Egyptian society.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights while feeling up Hanan.
- Being felt up by Mohamed Mounir resolves Hanan’s bedroom issues.
- More overweight belly dancing.
- Etc..

And so it went, on and on and on. It was all so highly symbolic as to be entirely stripped of fun and entertainment, but then again maybe me and my companions were too dense to see what the bloody hell eating a rose means. It will however, be well-received Outside by men in glasses wearing polo necks because its scenes with prayer beads conspicuous in the foreground and the obligatory sound of the muezzin inevitably transform it into a damning critique of the socio-economic dichotomy of gender roles in contemporary Arab society blah blah blah.

About the only scene which moved me in any way was that depicting a female circumcision, which was leg-crossingly horrific and quite well done.

We all left the cinema to the sound of my friend Amour dispensing various mother-related invectives against the film’s directors. Amour is 20, his favourite pastimes are looking at Haifa Wahby pictures and playing sadda radda, and his best film is Titanic. We bonded in my last job when I explained female menstruation to him and he repaid the favour by making me a George Wassouf cocktail. Were it not for the fact of Amour’s jubilance about the recent news that his army service had been delayed for three years, I fear that an act of violence could have been committed in the cinema tonight.

This weekend I am going to see Ma7atet Masr to get the taste of Donia out of my mouth. So to speak.


Everything's Eventual said...

Tried not to laugh out loud at the office while reading this. I think I'm going to see the movie just to get a laugh out of it....and see what Mounir is railing about :)

As for ma7atet Masr, I've watched it, if you're looking for a review just ask :) I was going to comment about it but don't want to spoil it for you.

GC said...

Bewara of Ma7atet Masr. A complete waste of time and money.

Amnesiac said...

Everything: I counsel against paying money to see it, particularly given that it is only showing in Cairo Mall Haram, one of the world's most depressing cinemas. Also, the cinema is on the 6th floor, and on exiting the film one is tempted to throw oneself off the escalators out of sheer desperation.

GC: Yes I have heard that Ma7etet Masr is very poor indeed, and would not usually consider going to anything described as a 'romantic comedy.' Perhaps I will see 7'iyana Mashrou3a instead, though I was put off by the trailer because:

1. The guns were clearly plastic.
2. The slap sound effect was audible roughly ten minutes after Salama's hand actually made contact with that woman's cheek.

Will E. said...

How about the prestige, a foreign movie from those who know how to make movies?

Everything's Eventual said...

yeah althogh 7'eyana mashroo3a is a copy and paste effort from many american movies, it's surprisingly good to watch. I, myself, am not a big fan of hany salama but his performance isn't half bad and i'm starting to reconsider.

Khaled said...

Amnesiac: Your post on Donia is hilarious.. especially that I saw the movie too and I share the same opinion with you. I thought I'll see something with some interesting content.. but I was disappointed to see this poor flick. Walid Aouni was just terrible!!

If you're looking for movie recommendations then maybe you should check Matab Sena3y. It is very funny and has some nice jokes.. if you like Ahmed Helmy style. Of course don't expect to get out of the movie with a message.. it's just a fun movie to watch..

Amnesiac said...

Actually I just watched 'Proof' with Gyneth 'one facial expression' Paltrow, which put me in almost as bad a mood as Donia did.

fully_polynomial said...

Thats quite a description! In line with what everyone told me about the movie too.

Proof was not too bad though. But I agree about Paltrow. Gyllenhaal was his usual annoying self. But his sister is hot so we can forgive him. Maybe I was partial to the movie because I liked the play.

Ma7attet masr -- avoid at all costs.

Kheyana Mashrou3a comes as a welcome addition to the catalogue of Egypt's most pretentious filmmaker. It has some scenes with high comic value kaman. A fat Sommaya El-Khashab jumping over buildings, practising judo, and chasing little innocent maie 3ezzeldeen w/ a knife. Cant get better than this.

I guess the best movie I have seen in the past twelve months is The Science of Sleep. Watch this if you can. Should cleanse this rubbish we are subjected to throughout the year.

Alia said...

Bra-vo :)

Amnesiac said...

Fully: Paltrow is insipid and Gyllenhaal was probably the only decent thing in the film.
Never really understood how people find Maggie hot, apart from in Secretary and to be frank I think that had more to do with James Spader and his desk.

If 7'eyana mashrou3a has unintended comedy value then I simply must see it.

Alia: Thanks.

shera said...

That is hilarious. Thank you for the morning laugh.
i second you in everything you said, i watched the movie, i thought it was ridiculous, extremely boring and deserve to be banned as part of “stop torture” programs.
recently i knew a piece of information from a friend that worked in the movie as an internal art producer and was not impressed by the final result at all. He mentioned that the movie was originally much longer than that (I think 4 hours were shot)..but the director decided to restructure the whole movie and to cut it short to 1.5 hour eliminating important parts and characters. The result was the disfigured clips that we saw (not even to be called a movie).

Amnesiac said...

Shera: Thanks for that info, interesting.

My God four hours of Donia, I think we got off lightly.

I have to say that the only thing I liked about Donia was the production by which I mean the quality of the film, the shots etc, rather than the dancing. So if your friend was involved in that, mad props to him.

BTW the link you provide to your blog doesn't appear to be working.