Egypt Islamist leader, liberal director argue over future of cinema


The sweeping victory of Islamists in the first two rounds of Egypt’s first parliamentary elections after the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime raised liberals’ concerns over a variety of issues, on top of which was the future of the film industry under a conservative government. The debate between a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader and a prominent liberal director served to give an insight into the aspects of the problem.

Head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Film and Drama Committee Mohamed al-Naggar started with objections to the labels liberals sometimes give to types of films to distinguish between what is conservative and what is not.

“There is nothing called a Brotherhood film or a leftist film or a Nasserist film,” Naggar told Al Arabiya’s Parliament Race.

Naggar explained that unlike what many people think the Muslim Brotherhood are not against cinema and do not believe that it is against Islam.

“On the contrary, cinema like any art is an integral part of human nature.”

What the Brotherhood cares about the most, he pointed out, is the production of movies that represent the values of society.

“We cannot reduce a movie into a couple of sex scenes because this does not reflect the reality of women in Egypt.”

When asked if the Brotherhood is willing to deal with unveiled actresses if it is to produce movies, Naggar replied in the affirmative.

“We can produce a movie with unveiled actresses when necessary.”

On the other hand, director Khaled Youssef stressed that filmmaking is an art with rules and technicalities and that unless those are employed properly, the outcome will not be real cinematic art.

Youssef objected to the focus placed by the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in general on sex scenes in Egyptian movies.

“Egyptian cinema is not a bunch of sex scenes. It is an art with a long history and great productions,” he told Parliament Race in the same episode dedicated to the future of cinema in Egypt following Islamists’ electoral victory.

As for the importance of having movies reflect Egyptian reality, Youssef said it will also be unrealistic to give preference to veiled actresses.

“This will neither reflect reality nor convince the audience.”

Youssef added that the history of Egyptian cinema is much deeper than that of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Art was and still is one of the most important components of the Egyptian personality.”

Youssef stressed the important of including in the new constitution an article that grants freedom of creativity as long as social traditions are not compromised.

Regarding the possibility of some form of agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian filmmakers, Youssef found this unlikely.

“The art of cinema is about vision and there is a big gap in vision between the two parties.”

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)