CAIRO – 4 December 2017: In light of promoting awareness on violence against women as part of the ongoing 16-day campaign of activism against gender-based violence “Break the Silence … Say no to Violence,” Egypt Today marks down some of the inspirational films that encouraged women empowerment, led and performed by the late actress and singer Shadia who died on November 28.
Originally named Fatma Shaker, Shadia has led inspirational roles either in shedding light on the oppression carried out against women or portraying the strength of women who grew strong despite the oppression, breaking all the walls and fighting for their rights. Shadia has pioneered in playing the role of a woman who is an active agent in everyone’s life.
Meraty Modeer A’am (My Wife is A General Manager), 1966
Still scene from “Meraty Modeer A’am” (My Wife is General Manager) film showing late actress/ singer Shadia – Photo courtesy of Youtube
Shadia beautifully depicted the reality of working women who are obliged to balance their jobs, the many tasks they have to carry out in their households, and catering to their husbands’ needs, shedding light on the ugly truth that it is common for a man to be jealous of his wife’s success. The comedy film co-starred Salah Zulfaqar, was written by Saad Edine Wahba and Abdel Hamid Gouda al-Sahhar, and directed by Fatin Abdel Wahab.
This perspective has been portrayed by Zulfaqar who played Shadia’s husband and also her employee! He was whole-heartedly supportive when he knew that she is his new manager at the architecture office, obviously showing his happiness with his wife’s success; however, he was keen on not mentioning to his co-workers that the new manager is, in fact, his wife. He later grew in anger and stress as he felt that his wife’s success is not only taking her away from her duties as a housewife, but also jeopardizing his sense of manhood, and imposing undesired competition between them. The film displays light comedy scenes, depicting the escalating tension between them as he would start rigorous fights with her over meaningless subjects.
A powerful woman and lover, Shadia peacefully resolves the situation by quitting her job and explaining her true intentions to their friends and co-workers, where she emphasized her love for her husband who, she claimed, has played a prominent role in her career success. As a result, he declares his respect and love for her and admits his mistake in being ashamed of her. He later encouraged her to further develop in her work.
Her role has undoubtedly fought gender bias, stressing that women can be equally powerful as men; also, it has uniquely framed the importance of being selfless towards loved ones.
“Alley of the Pestel” (Zuqaq El-Madek), 1963
Still scene from “Zuqaq El-Madek” (Alley of the Pestel) film showing late actress/ singer Shadia – Photo courtesy of Youtube
The true definition of a fearless woman, Shadia plays the role of Hamida, a rebellious poor young lady who has a great appetite for life and aspires to marry a rich man who can buy her the lifestyle she dreams of. Hamida, whose parents are dead, lives with her aunt, and is defined as one of the most attractive ladies in the alley who is desired by many men; but, the barber Abas el-Helw, played by Salah Qabil, truly fell in love with her.
Originally based on Nagiub Mahfouz’s controversial novel, the film later portrays Hamida and Helw getting engaged, despite the fact that he is not the man she was waiting for and is equally poor. Helw has later embarked on a military mission and left the alley in goals of getting paid enough money to make Hamida happy and financially settled.
Despite the twisted turn the plot leads and the tragic ending, Shadia outperformed in this role, emphasizing that poor orphaned women in local communities are not helpless or weak. She stood strong against people’s opinions of her controversial behavior and defined her worth and strength and was always capable of solely making her own life choices.
“El-Mara’a el-Maghola” (The Anonymous Woman), 1959
Still scene from “El-Mara’a el-Maghola” (The Anonymous Woman) film showing Late actress/ singer Shadia – Photo courtesy of Youtube
“The Anonymous Woman” works as a defined mirror to the struggle of women to defend their honor and reputation in conservative societies, where they can easily be falsely accused of misconduct by that male-dominated society, without having the right to defend themselves.
In this film, Shadia plays the role of a victim of these accusations; Fatma, who is a wife to a doctor and a mother to one son, was visiting her friend Soaad. Moments after she arrived at soaad's house, the police barged in and arrested everyone in the house, including Fatma, for charges of operating a prostitution network, which is an illegal practice in Egypt.
Although Fatma had no knowledge of the activities held in Soaad’s house, she was dishonored and divorced by her husband who did not believe she was innocent; as a result, he took her son away from her. She later struggles to make a living and to avoid being blackmailed by criminals who seek to hurt her, knowing that she is vulnerable and easy to seize. After many unfortunate events throughout the film’s plot, Fatma is reunited years later with her only son who became a reputable lawyer; also, she witnessed her ex-husband admit that he did her wrong and that she was in fact innocent.
Shadia mastered the role of the woman who seeks to create a life of her own despite the mischief she does not deserve, highlighting the unbreakable bond between mother and child.
“The Anonymous Woman” strongly portrays most women in the Middle Eastern societies, who are prone to false accusations at any moment, and who always struggle against being “labeled.”
"Shei’ Men al-Khof" (A Bit of Fear), 1969
Still scene from “Shei’ Mn al-Khof” (A Bit of Fear) film showing late actress/ singer Shadia – Photo courtesy of Youtube
An active agent of change, Shadia has introduced the famous phrase “Batel” (Void) that is chanted today in revolutions or uprisings. In an iconic drama featuring oppression and people’s revolution against corruption, Shadia plays Fouada who is an ordinary citizen living in a poor village. Fouada is the woman who had the courage to open the waterways shut down by the village’s leader Atris. She strongly stood up to fight for her rights as well as the villagers' rights. Showcasing resilience and challenging authority, she leads an uprising with all the disadvantaged villagers against Atris despite threats approaching her family.
Costarring Mahmoud Morsi and Yehia Shahin, the film was written by Abdel Rahman el-Abanoudy, based on a novel by Tharwat Abaza, and directed by Hussein Kamal.
“Shabab Emara’a” (A Woman’s Youth), 1956
Still scene from “Shabab Emara’a” (A Woman’s Youth) film showing late actress/ singer Shadia – Photo courtesy of Youtube
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, “A Woman’s Youth” is a classical drama portraying the influential role a woman can play in unveiling others’ potentials. Shadia played the role of Salwa, an ordinary young lady, whose father is friends with a young man called Emam, played by Shoukry Sarhan. Emam moves to Cairo to continue his studies in science; however he is dragged to the path of lust and drugs by an authoritarian woman who admired his youth.
Salwa in return dedicates her time and energy to saving Emam from this path and reminding him of his purpose in life and career goals. She generously encouraged him to lift himself up again and pursue his goals; as a result, he responded and was motivated to drift back to his original plan which is graduating from science school.