Screencap from a clip from the film, April 22, 2018 – Youtube/ Giornate degli Autori.
CAIRO – 22 April 2018: The 2017 drama film "Looking for Oum Kulthum" will be screening at Zamalek Cinema on Monday, April 23, opening up this year's "Cairo Cinema Days" festival.
Based on the life of the legendary Egyptian singer, Iranian director Shirin Neshat tells her story not through a typical biographic film format but in a unique "film-within-a-film" manner. The movie is as much about Oum Kulthum as it is about the film's protagonist, Mitra, a young Iranian film-maker living in exile who finds herself entranced with the life and work of Kulthum. She is working on directing a film about her, and finds herself growing more personally attached to the life of Kulthum, seeing her own plight reflected in the story of this superstar icon that lived so long ago.
Though they come from different parts of the Arab world, both share the struggles of being a woman in a conservative culture that values the works and voices of men while viewing women as inferior, especially in roles such as that of the director where they are granted some sense of authority and power.
"Looking for Oum Kulthum" not only explores the trials and tribulations stars like Kulthum faced in her time, but also examines what modern Arab women in the film industry continue to deal with even in our supposedly more advanced times.
Neshat is primarily a visual artist who has worked as a film-maker for over 20 years. She was born in Iran in 1957, and went to the United States to finish her education for what should have been a few years; the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 ensured that Neshat would be away from her homeland for two decades. She then moved to New York, though only went back to making art when she was finally able to return to Iran in 1993.
Neshat utilizes photography and film-making to explore what it means to be a woman in an Islamic society. Previous films he worked on include "Women without Men" in 2009, a drama film about four women in Iran whose lives and stories converge in the same Orchid Garden, where they find freedom and independence.
"Looking for Oum Kulthum" first premiered in Italy at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 2, 2017.