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How Far Will the Clean Cinema Effort Go?

September 8, 2011

Are contemporary Egyptian films really any "dirtier" than classics starring such cinema lights as Tahia Carioca?

Whether or not they win a clear majority in Parliament, Islamists of various political persuasion, and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, will clearly have greater political influence than ever before in the new Egypt. Some fear that this will push the “clean cinema” agenda, and interfere with Egypt’s moviemaking freedom.

According to a report by Ahmad Othman on the Saudi -owned news website, many of the filmmakers releasing new movies over the Eid al-Fitr holiday–one of the top seasons for new releases–are falling all over themselves to assure people that their films “uphold clean art” and “do not harm moral values.”

Officially, the Muslim Brotherhood has never threatened direct censorship. Rather, the organization has called for a post-Mubarak Egyptian “engaged cinema,” exhibiting a creativity that is committed to the expression of moral values, according to former Deputy Mohsen Radhi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Interestingly, Othman sites as an example producer Ahmad as-Sabki who is said to have stated of his new film (which I think is called Cabaret), “The theme is simple and funny. This movie is suitable for the Eid, it includes no indecent scenes and the audience will leave the theater satisfied.”

I think this statement may be taken out of context. I’m no fan of as-Sabki’s movies, but as an anti-censorship advocate, he’s been pretty outspoken, saying in interviews that if the Muslim Brotherhood runs this country and censors films he’ll quit the movie business and become a butcher.

As-Sabki has made similar statements in the past, but always in the context of denying Egyptian movies like his are as bad as the Muslim Brotherhood and similar critics say, never by way of pandering to the clean film crowd. His argument has always been that the accusations of films being “dirty” are exaggerated; that most are no more salacious than they were in the golden age of Egyptian cinema.


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