Conservative Egyptians are once again in an uproar over a critically acclaimed new film, by a Queer Egyptian filmmaker, which explores gay relationships and polyamory.

Bashtaalak sa’at (Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?), which premiered at the 72nd Berlin Film Festival this month, has been the target of angry critics who accuse the director, Mohammad Shawky Hassan, of “promoting homosexuality.”

Omar Abdel Aziz, the head of the Federation of Art Syndicates, told Al-Watan that the film “highlights the worst of us.”

‘Strip Filmmaker Of Citizenship’

The outrage over the film has led to one Egyptian lawyer, Ayman Mahfouz, demanding that Hassan be stripped of his Egyptian citizenship.

Advertisement
“With this immoral act, the Egyptian nationality has become an honor that this director who supports the idea of homosexuality cannot deserve, and we must collectively fight this art that destroys the values of the religious and moral community, and replaces the relationship between men and women with a sinful relationship between men and men,” said Mahfouz in his complaint to the Council of Ministers.

The film, a German-Egyptian-Lebanese co-production, was nominated for the GWFF Award for Best First Feature, as well as a Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlinale.

Hassan, who wrote and directed Bashtaalak sa’at, shot the film entirely in Berlin with a largely Egyptian cast, including Ahmed Awadalla, Nadim Bahsounn, Hassan Dib, Donia Massoud and Ahmed El Gendy.

Bashtaalak sa’at (Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?)

‘Gay Characters In Egyptian Films Are Judged Morally’

Film critic Tarek El Shinnawi  in an interview with El-Kahera Wal Nas said, Apart from the fact that some actors speak in the Egyptian dialect in the movie, the setting is unidentified,” and the film neither positively or negatively tackles homosexuality.”

Advertisement
When a gay character is portrayed in Egyptian drama, it is usually judged morally,” said El Shinnawi. 

While it is unlikely that the film will be screened in Egypt due to its sexual content and strong censorship in the country, Bashtaalak sa’at has yet to be formally banned by the Egyptian government.

‘Film Has  Many Intimate And Sexual Scenes Between Male Actors’

Bashtaalak sa’at (Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?)

According to the Arabic website Fil Fan, “The film will not be shown commercially in Egypt for several reasons, the first of which is the unwillingness of the production authorities to fight battles with the censorship authorities in Egypt, especially since the film contains a large amount of intimate and sexual scenes between male actors, which is inconsistent with Egyptian censorship laws. The second and most important reason is that the film was originally made for screening at film festivals.”

The film, which employs thematic elements of the Middle Eastern folk tale collection Arabian Nights, and is presented against a soundtrack of Egyptian pop music, tells the fateful love story between two men, as well as more broadly speaking of the reality of gay life in the Arab world. 

Advertisement
In an interview with Dutch Culture, Hassan said, “It is important to rethink this language and to overcome this strict duality of ‘free’ and ‘oppressed’, because what it really does is ignore the power of the subtle resistance strategies, subversive gestures and coping mechanisms that many queer Arabs practice on a daily basis, which slowly but steadily challenge and destabilise the complex patriarchal systems within which they operate.”

El Shinnawi, who is recognised as one of the Arab world’s most influential film critics, told Al-Monitor, No one can judge a work of art without seeing it first. It is unacceptable to take any stance on a movie based on talks on social networking sites or newspaper articles.”

“To be fair, a movie must be seen before being criticized,” said El Shinnawi.

Taboo In Arab Culture

Ashab Wala A’azz (Perfect Strangers)

This is just the latest controversy to erupt in Egypt over a film presenting homosexuality in a positive light. In January, the Netflix film Perfect Strangers (Ashab Wala Aazz) also enraged Conservative critics. 

The film which was the first ever Arabic film made for the streaming giant,  was the focus of anger over its gay character and story elements which were perceived as taboo in Arab culture.

Perfect Strangers ultimately topped the ratings chart across the Middle East, including Egypt and Lebanon.

 

 

© Star Observer 2022 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.