‘Looking for Oum Kalthoum’ Film Under Fire for its Iranian Director

Published June 26th, 2018 - 11:18 GMT
Egyptian actress Yasmin Raeis who plays Ghada, the actress who wants to play Oum Kalthoum role, on the official cover of the film. (IMDB)
Egyptian actress Yasmin Raeis who plays Ghada, the actress who wants to play Oum Kalthoum role, on the official cover of the film. (IMDB)

By Randa Darwish

“Looking for Oum Kalthoum”, the film that revolves around the legendary star of the orient, Oum Kalthoum, had faced fierce criticism in the home country of Oum Kalthoum while receiving a warm welcome on the international scene.

The film is for New York-based Iranian director, Shirin Neshat who is criticized for directing a film in Arabic while she does not speak the language. Critics also claimed the film had several inaccuracies and faults on the life of Oum Kalthoum as the director chose to narrow the legendary singer’s story from her own point of view.

Translation: “Many suggested me to watch a film named “Looking for Oum Kalthoum” for an Iranian director. What is the story of the film? And what does it mean that an Arabic film was directed by an Iranian director who does not even speak Arabic?”

Some critics claimed the film had falsely featured a women protest in 1914 in Egypt while the first women protest known in Egypt took place in the 1919. It also represented the home town village of Oum Kalthoum, El Senbellawein as if they are still living in the Age of Ignorance.

The Egyptian film critic Amir al-Amri also pointed out to some faults were represented in the film in an interview to the Monitor website. He said Oum Kulthum never choked while singing before late President Gamal Abdel Nasser and she never worn a short-sleeve dress in addition to picturing Egyptians in the 1960s wearing tarboush- the red Fez, while they stopped wearing it by the early 1950s.

The film was praised in the international festivals as it has been screened in Toronto and Venice films festivals and now premiered in Germany and Austria, however, it is now in question whether will be screened in Egypt or not. MC Distributors, the company that holds screening rights in Egypt expressed their doubts whether the movie will be screened in Egypt or not.

Misrepresenting few details in the film triggered criticism, meanwhile, everyone watched it, agreed that is was an artistic work capturing hearts of the audience on women’s struggles in the Middle East while trying to excavate their own lives.

Translation: “It is something to be really proud of.”

The story of the film revolves around an Iranian director who is on search for an actress to present the legendary Egyptian singer in her film. The film presents the difficult journey and struggles that Oum Kalthoum faced to become the legendary singer she became in a conservative society like the Egyptian society from the point of view of the director herself. The film stars Iranian actress Neda Rahmanian as director Mitra and Egyptian Yasmin Raeis as Ghada, the actress who wants to play Oum Kalthoum role.

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