“Before the Revolution” play poster – Official promotional material.
CAIRO – 21 March 2018: The play “Before the Revolution” is to be performed at Rawabet Theater on Tuesday and Saturday, after having been cancelled for two days following a decision by the Ministry of Culture’s Supervisory Authority on Artistic Works to censor the play and request the removal of five scenes.
The play is part of the ongoing annual Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) that has been running since March 8, showcasing an array of art performances. The play stars Syrian actress Nanda Mohammad and Egyptian actor Ramsi Lehner. Lehner is known for “Harag w Marag”, Day of the Falcon (2011), the “El-Kanz” (The Treasure) series (2017) and “Moga Harra” (2013). Egypt Today tried to reach Lehner for comments on the incident, but he declined.
Ahmed El Attar, artistic director of D-CAF and theater director/writer of “Before the Revolution”, announced on Sunday in a press statement released by D-CAF that the play had been cancelled after being censored by the authority, stating that the decision would ruin the play artistically and dramatically if the scenes were removed.
As a result, Attar invited members of the authority to come and watch the rehearsals themselves on Monday in hopes that the decision would be reverted; hours later, the authority approved of the play’s performance in front of the public once again.
D-CAF officials appreciated the authority’s re-evaluation of the ruling, emphasizing their gratitude for not forcing them to drain the play’s dramatic structure.
“The five scenes weren’t censored only for political reasons but there are some other concerns such as the inappropriate language used in these scenes " Nanda Mohammad, one of the play’s protagonists, told Egypt Today on Tuesday.
She pointed out that based on the committee’s second decision, the play will be performed with the removal of only two scenes and adjusting the language in the other scenes.
Mohammad sees that these are the authority members’ opinions, as the play’s content is not breaking specific media laws. While explaining the plot of the play, she emphasized that the play’s dramatic events all happen before the time of the revolution and explained that it tackles Egyptians’ emotional and societal state at the time.
Egypt Today tried to reach the Supervisory Authority on Artistic Works for comments, but they did not respond.
“There is a stereotypical notion that all media and newspaper outlets adhere to, which involves jumping to the false conclusion that if any works get censored then it must be for political reasons; however, this was not the case with ‘Before the Revolution’,” Mohammad said. She then clarified that there is a wider set of criteria for the role of censorship in evaluating any media content that is not only focused on the political content.
Role of Censorship: The authority is authorized to review and license any visual or audio produced, whether recorded, aired, streamed or delivered via any medium or format based on law 38 of 1992. To claim the right of delivering content to audience, one has to submit ownership documents of this content and submit certain fees to the authorities.
The Egyptian Supervisory Authority on Artistic Works requires that any presented content should not disrupt moral, humane, religious, spiritual and societal values. Any content inciting atheism, hatred towards religion, pornography, drugs, foul language, crime and violence is not authorized to be screened or aired.
Through dramatic events illustrated in the play, “Before the Revolution” features a specific concept, where the revolution portrays people’s resistance against many oppressive powers that they experience in their lives, such as deception, violence, insecurity and depression.
Mohammad added that one watching the play would be influenced by emotional and intellectual states, as it depicts recession before a predictable outbreak.
As “Before the Revolution” is an independent play, Mohamed referred to the improvement of the current scene of independent theater.
“There is a diversity of independent plays that has been getting wider in the past years, unlike independent theater in many European countries, which for the time being is going through a weak stage,” she pointed out.
She explained that independent artists are currently trying to correct the misconception that independent projects are sophisticated and only target a specific type of audience.
Attar, who is artistic director of D-CAF and Falaki Theater, as well as founder and manager of Orient Productions, Temple Independent Theater Company and Studio Emad Eddin, has received various awards from remarkable institutions, such as Best Theater Text from the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development. He has also been chosen by the Arabic edition of Newsweek as one of 42 personalities who have influenced change in the Arab world.
He participated in numerous international festivals throughout Europe and the Arab region with his plays such as “Waiting for My Uncle” and “The Last Supper”.
D-CAF 2018 is running from March 8 to 29, 2018. The festival’s seventh edition contains a group of unique, new and vivid shows. D-CAF events, which occur every year in Downtown, will feature artists from Egypt, the Middle East and various other countries from across the world performing different artistic works, including plays, films, visual arts and music. D-CAF's “Art and Disability” program in this year’s edition will host several performances, events and workshops.