New York Times Calls Shahin Film ‘Reckless, Buoyant Hodgepodge’

Published October 6th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Egyptian director Yousef Shahin’s new film Sukout Hansawar (Silence…We're Rolling) was recently screened at the New York Film Festival 2001, drawing slightly befuddled but largely positive reviews. 

The New York Times, which describes the film as “a reckless, buoyant hodgepodge, a musical screwball soap opera that will leave you dumbfounded and, if you're in the right mood, delighted,” admits that Shahin’s work is less familiar to American audiences than that of his European counterparts.  

The daily says that Shahin, in his film, demonstrates a voracious appetite for all kinds of pop culture, from old American flicks to Egyptian television drama, from the lush orchestrations of Arabic concert hall music to the choreography of mid-1980's Michael Jackson videos.  

The New York Times says the director also delights in off-the-cuff, gratuitous special effects. At one point, for no real reason, a character's digitally enhanced eyes pop out of his head, and he whirls around the room like the Tasmanian Devil of old Warner Brothers cartoons. Soon after, a fantasy sequence of two lovers embracing in the sand is interrupted by a flock of striped beach umbrellas flying through the air like magic carpets. 

The story, according to New York Times, is pure Doris Day: the near-heartbreak of a driven career woman living a life of over-the-top showbiz glamour. Malak, the heroine, is a movie star and chanteuse of a kind we don't see much anymore in this country: imagine Barbra Streisand without pretension or Madonna without kink. She is played by the Tunisian singer Latifa, whose somewhat limited acting is overcome by her indomitable charisma and a figure as voluptuous as her voice.  

The movie opens and closes with a song celebrating the open-hearted joie de vivre that characterizes "a genuine Egyptian." The song is ravishingly sung by Latifa and performed by a tuxedo-clad orchestra led by Omar Khairat, the composer and arranger who is an icon of this lush, sentimental style, a kind of Egyptian Nelson Riddle. The film charmingly renders present-day Cairo and Alexandria as zones of cosmopolitan suavity, troubled only by the passing storm clouds of romantic melodrama. 

Shahin begins the film with a tribute to Egypt. Tibqa Inta Akeed Al Masri (You're Certainly The Egyptian), composed by Omar Khayrat and sung by Latifa, is a catchy tune extolling the virtues of the average Egyptian. It also features stills of Egyptian heroes like Nagib Mahfouz and Ahmed Zeweil, according to Cairo Lives. 

Five minutes into the film, Shahin has already introduced a complex web of love and betrayal. Jean-Jacques Lamei -- an impoverished imposter -- pretends to love Malak, who falls for it big-time. Her daughter Paula (played by Ruby), on the other hand, is in love with the driver's son Nasser, a magisterial candidate who loves her for real and not for her money.  

To seal Paula and Nasser's engagement, Malak's mother (played by Magda Al Kahteeb) invites everybody to a fancy "sharkassia" dinner at the family palace. But when Malak's director (played by real-life director Zaki Fateen Abdel Wahab) and scriptwriter (played by Ahmed Bedeir) see through Lamei's false advances towards Malak, the dinner turns into a fiasco, accompanied by a few minutes of good dialogue about cinema, and dedication to a career path.  

The big star Malak is supposed to be dowdy and vulnerable. Shahin seems to be trying to show how stardom can be both alienating and lonely. Her suitor, Lamei, is a weird guy with yellow highlights in his hair -- clearly distasteful but somehow attractive to the insecure Malak.  

Shahin seems to be trying to say something important about art and fame, wealth and poverty, Egypt and history – 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (

© 2000 - 2021 Al Bawaba (

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