CAIRO – 8 March 2020: There are certain roles in cinema and drama that were truly insightful, giving us a miniature copy about women’s life in the past 40 years, making us without exaggeration feel as if we were living in all the previous era.
On the other hand, some movies and TV series recognize the role that the media should play in positively influencing people.
Acknowledging that media is meant to make us think, broaden our horizons and help us fight wrong ideas about gender and other controversial topics, some remarkable movies and series in the history of Egyptian media have focused on women in leading roles and inspired females as a way to face social challenges and reassure the right of every girl to pursue her dream and live the life she wants.
A number of movies and series played a significant role in portraying the vital role women play in the society, addressed women societal problems, offered solutions and even change mind sets.
No one of course could live in all eras and knows what happened before he was born, but just watching a movie in a certain era may give you a glimpse of what happened in this period.
On the occasion of International Women Day, Egypt Today will take you in a tour inside the immortal life archive labelled Egyptian cinema and drama to see how women in Egypt have changed, and how drama reflected that change.
1- 678 movie
Director Mohamed Diab released his movie 678 ( known internationally as Cairo 678) one month before the January 25 revolution. 678 revolves around the problem of sexual harassment in Arab societies, through 678 bus that witnessed sexual harassment accidents to several women.
The film tackled this world wide phenomena through highlighting the life of three women of different social classes, that have nothing in common except that they all got publicly harassed. The first is Sebaa high class jewellery designer who gets harassed in a stadium while watching a match.
Her husband couldn’t accept that he failed to protect her so she decided to get a divorce and to establish an organization aiming to stand against harassment and teach women how to protect themselves from this painful phenomena.
The second is a middle class standup comedian and call center employee named Nelly who was subjected to physical sexual harassment when a truck driver grabs her and pulls her through the street.
Her family as most of the Egyptian conservative families tried to prevent her from filing a report for harassment in order not to infamous her reputation but Nelly decided not to be afraid of speaking up, and she filed a court case for being sexually harassed, unlike the acknowledged norm of keeping silent.
The third is Fayza (Bushra), a low class government employee who was subjected to sexual harassment almost on a daily basis in 678 bus. Fayza joined Saba’s association who advised her to use a pin and stab any harasser.
The three women provided a scream of millions of Egyptian girls who were subjected to sexual harassment, establishing the fact that harassment is not limited to a particular social class. The film was adapted based on real stories of women who suffered sexual harassment.
The movie was an alarm to many men and women who think that sexual harassment is not as prevalent as it really is. Cairo 678 was described by the New York Times as an unmistakably harbinger of the revolution.
The famous Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho tweeted about the film calling it brilliant, saying it should be mandatory for men, regardless of their religion or culture, to watch.
2- Fatat el-Masnaa(Factory Girl)
Late renowneddirector Mohamed Khan has previously createdimmortal features about Egyptian women facing many social challenges Fatat el-Masnaa is one of them.
The movie follows a year in the life of Hayam, a young woman working in one of Cairo’s textile factories. Searching for an escape from her dominating stepfather, Hayam dreams of tying the knot with the handsome factory supervisor Salah who grabbed her attention and starts to be more intimate.
But when a positive pregnancy test is discovered in the factory’s garbage, her coworkers and family assume that Hayam is a fallen woman. Her decision not to defend herself costs her dearly, as society refuses to accept independent women.
The film deals with many women by trying to make a very clear image of Egyptian women in general. So we saw a number of female characters in different age groups and degrees of kinship, such as the grandmother, the mother and the aunt.”
Khan dedicated Fatat el-Masnaato the spirit of late cinematic icon Cinderella SoadHosny and used many of Hosny’s songs and radio interviews as a backdrop for Hayam’s poignant story. The movie staring Yasmine Rais, Hany Adel among others.
3- Segn Al-Nesa
Segn Al-Nesais a series that achieved a booming success based on real stories of prisoners and wardresses.
The series heroine Ghalia performed by Nelly Karim was forced after the death of her mother who was a wardress at the Qanater Prison for Women to follow her footsteps to preserve the state-sponsored apartment in the wardress' neighbourhood.
In this female dominated series we found a group of women who were forced by their circumstances sometimes like Dalal and Zenat to work as prostitutes, or they walked in the crime path based on their choice like the drug dealer Aziza.
This women prison houses also high society women such as a businesswoman who was imprisoned to save her son, as if this prison was a miniature copy of women who are divided into two sections: either criminals or victims who society pushed them to commit their crimes.
Ghalia’s husband Saberrepresents numerous men in Egyptian society, where a notable percentage of household breadwinners are now women.
Dalal, played by Dorra, presents a clear example of the consequences of society’s refusal to woman’s repentance.
She is a beautiful young who joins her aunt and cousins into indirect prostitution as she does not engage in sexual activities, she just goes to bars and night clubs with her cousin's clients. When she decidedto quit this world and get married,she ends up in jail.
When she vows to leave prison and decided to start a new clean life she was rejected by both her family and ex-husband, to fall completely into the prostitution world to pay the bill of living in a society that did not value woman's prudery over her attempt to quit past mistakes.
We have also Hayat who killed her husband and children and wanted to kill herself as well by adding poison to the food because she is an obsessive compulsive disorder patient. We have also the humble girl Reda who came from her poor village to Egypt to work as a servant.
She started to imitate the daughter of her lady named Dalila, who dealt with her kindly at the beginning, but when a dispute occurred between, Dalila humiliated her, Reda was outraged ,killed the girl and was sentenced to death. Reda is an example of poor girl who develop higher class aspirations.
Segn Al-Nesapresented many other female social issues such as pressures of work, sexual harassment and the struggles they face within their marriages.
The series staring Nelly Karim, Dorra, Ahmed Dawoud, SalwaKhattab, Salwa Osman, RihamHagag, Ruby, among others. Segn el Nesaa was taken from a novel written by acclaimed late writer Fathia el Assal, script by Mariam Naoum and directed by KamlaAbouZekry.
4- ‘’Youm lel Setat’’ ( A day for women)
The story of ‘’Youm lel Setat’’ movie takes place in one of the underprivileged Egyptian districts, where the three main heroines of the movie, Azza, Shaimaa and Laila, live. One day, a new swimming pool opens in their neighborhood with a day designated for women only; Sundays.
The first Sunday witnessed the gathering of all the women in the area who come from diverse backgrounds. Azza has long dreamed of wearing swimsuits, Shaimaa finally finds someone who listens to her when she talks about her private life and Laila tries to overcome her grief over her late son.
The movie stars Elham Chahine, Nelly Karim, Ahmed al-Fishawy, Mahmoud Hemeida, EyadNassar, Nahed al-Sebaie, HalaSedky and Ahmed Dawoud. “YoumlelSetat” is written by HanaaAttia and directed by KamlaAbouZekri.
5-- “Bashtery Ragel”
The movie is about a career-oriented woman in her late thirties who wants to have a child. She searches for a man to marry to only achieve this goal. The movie stars Nelly Karim and Mohamed Mamdouh and is directed by Mohamed Ali. The film tackles the spinsterhood problem in a comic way.
6- - “Akhdar Yabes”
The movie focuses on a woman, Iman, living in an oriental society. She tries to convince her uncles to meet her sister’s suitor in place of their deceased father. The protagonist is very traditional and strict; however, she receives medical news that causes her to rethink her life and question her beliefs, where she found she has serious problems with her Menstrual Cycle.
The movie was written and directed by Mohammed Hammad and stars Heba Ali, AsmaaFawzi, Ahmed Alaidy and John Ekram Hanna.
7- Youm Helw w Youm Moor ( 1988)
Aicha is a poor widow who struggles to support her 4 daughters and boy with her husband pension that can hardly cover the price of plain bread.
Aicha throughout the movie uses her instinct intelligenceto protect her daughters and son and guarantee them a mediocre future. Her eldest daughter married a worker named Orabi who later seduces her sisterLamiaa and ran away.
Lamiaa felt guilty and committed suicide by burning herselfbut Aicha managed to save her. Her ten-year-old boy nourran away escaping from Orabi’s cruelty as well as his sister Soad, because Orabi wanted her to marry by force.
While Aicha suffering all these problems one day their kind dumb neighbour took her to see her first grand child, his daughter from Soad and in the same day her son Nour returned back to her to live the sweet day that came after the bitter day.
The movie reflected brilliantly the challenges, problems and simple dreams of low class women like Aicha who struggles severely on a daily basis and her ambitious are too small just to live safely with her children.
The movie staring Faten Hamama, Simone, AblaKamel, Hanan Youssef, Mohamed Mounir, Mahmoud el Genedy among others.YoumHelw w Youm Moor is written by Fayez Ghaly and directed by KhairyBeshara.
8- Bentein Men Masr (Two Girls from Egypt )
Dalia (Saba Mubarak) and her cousin hanan( Zeina) are two unmarriedgirls in their early 30s whotheir ultimate dream is to find a man to satisfy their emotional, sexual and social needs. Throughout the film they faced a number of life incidents in a tragic context.
Bentein Men Masr tackled a number of intellectual, emotional and social issues related to unmarried girls and how people and society sometimes deal with them in a hurtful manner as if they are products that are about to reach expiry date.
The movie staringZeina, Saba Mubarak, EyadNassar, Tarek Lotfy among others. Bentein Men Masr is written and directed by Mohamed Amin.