Let's give Egypt somethin' to talk about! Films about taboo subjects battled their way to theatres
Two highly anticipated Egyptian films hit movie theatres across the country this Wednesday, 22 January.
Both films are notable for their lengthy battles with Egypt's censorship board.
Director Amr Salama's La Moakhza (Excuse My French) was held back by censors for almost three years before finally getting the green light. It tells the story of a Coptic Christian child who, fearing discrimination from his classmates after transferring to a public school, pretends to be a Muslim. The film was initially deemed too sensitive by the board and Salama was forced to adjust the script, all the while trying to preserve the film's core concept of religious discrimination. Even after the changes, though, the censors refused the film again in 2010, claiming that it would fuel sectarian strife and that it did not reflect behaviours that exist in Egyptian society.
Salama tried once more in 2012, hoping that the changes ushered in by the 25 January 2011 revolution would allow more cinematic flexibility, but the board rejected it a third time and requested further edits.
The director told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website in 2012 that he believed the film was rejected, more than anything, due to the religion of its main character.
La Moakha was chosen as the opening film of the second edition of the Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival currently taking place in the Upper Egyptian city.
Asrar Aaeleya (Family Secrets) by director Hany Fawzi also promises to be a highly controversial film: it's the first ever in Egypt to directly tackle the issue of homosexuality and also be granted authorisation for public and commercial screenings. The film follows a young man as he struggles to come out to his family and friends, a process that sees him visiting psychiatrists who attempt to cure him of what is viewed as a disease rather than a sexual orientation.
Fawzi's film also had its problems with censorship authorities, but it finally passed after the filmmakers obliged the board's requests and allowed for 13 vital cuts to be made, some critics say so many omissions that the main character's sexuality is hidden and the true purpose of the film lost.
However, others are optimistic that the film will at least open the door for public debate on homosexuality.
Both films deal with how Egyptian society tends to deal with differences among its members, and are expected to be among the most talked-about Egyptian productions of 2014.