Kalam al-Leil: Conflicts between Women are more Resonant than between Men and Women
In the Egyptian film Kalam Al-Leil, filmmaker Inas al-Degheidi characteristically chooses a topic full of potential for explicit scenes and sexually loaded dialogue. No topic, really, could be hotter than the different kinds of "prostitution" - including moral and political - and few subjects attract audiences in the commercial cinema to such an extent, according to al-Ahram Weekly.
Al-Degheidi chooses powerful, attractive women as the protagonists. At the beginning of this film, the spectator watches Kokitta spinning her web around a new catch: a formidable political figure, played by Mahmoud Qabil, who occupies an important position in the state. He is a good-looking, reserved man who discreetly refuses to answer the questions of journalists, preferring a brief "no comment". Yet he succumbs without much resistance to the charm of sex embodied in Koki and to the verbal flirtation she uses to trap him, although he is a responsible official who tackles such important issues as the Arab-Israeli peace process.
The editor-in-chief, the influential policeman, the high-ranking politician, the engineer who occupies a respectable official position, the bank manager, the economist, all gather every night at Kokitta's house, a center for prostitution and underworld financial shenanigans. And each one of them uses his influence to protect the woman.
Kokitta is a strong, attractive woman and has a way of seducing men and manipulating them as if she owned a set of keys to their hearts and minds. Her house is open to every one, both men and women, and she has an assistant, Amina, a woman no less powerful and who keeps a video recording of every customer's sexual goings-on for the purposes of blackmail.
When night falls, Amina supervises the preparation of the dining tables and the bar. To the music of Qazem al-Saher, Kokitta performs her sensual dances wearing seductive and revealing costumes, paving the way for the evening's conversations, which revolve inevitably around financial gains at the expense of the poor.
In the first part of the film, the customers plan to destroy all the popular buildings in the neighborhood to construct a new, exclusive residential compound, which is to include golf courses and luxurious villas.
In the film, the conflicts between powerful women, ie Kokitta and Amina (Jala Fahmi and Youssra), are more resonant than the conflicts between men and women. Each of them is adept at defending her interests and has her own weapons, whether secret or disclosed.
The conflict sometimes escalates to open statements of hostility. Youssra's expressive capacities are stronger even though throughout the film Kokitta displays what amounts to an impressive show of impertinence, loudness and physical prowess which she uses to attract the influential men and dispense with the less powerful. In one scene, we watch her pulling one of them by his tie like a sheep and hands him to Amina who continues to pull him to the front door in the midst of threats and insults.
Such power can quickly become brutal, as in the scene when Amina asks permission to resign and return to her modest family to look after her sister, marry the man she loves, and bear children before it is too late.
Love, though, is an emotion that does not exist in a world of business, which relies on sexual commerce. Marriage is only possible when it becomes a cover for dubious relations. In order for Kokitta to force Amina to remain, she frames her for prostitution and watches as she is taken away from her mother and two sisters to a police station. In revenge, Amina carefully plans Kokitta's fall using the videos and the help of the policeman responsible for watching the house and reporting on its customers.
There is no doubt that Inas al-Degheidi is a bold filmmaker. She possesses a perspective which conforms to the traditional idea of a woman as someone who either determines the male's direction or is determined by it. Women's bodies and voices are sex-tools, successfully used to appeal to the public – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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