Monday, 28 February 2011

Oscar alternative

The Oscars was the snooze-fest we’ve come to expect and made safe choices. I mean, really, nothing for True Grit? And while I can appreciate that The King’s Speech caters to an audience often neglected by mainstream film makers (i.e. people over 50), is it really a more original, emotionally engaging and boundary-pushing film than The Kids are Alright or Toy Story 3?

Let’s wash the sight of James Franco dressed as Marilyn Monroe from our collective retinas with this three-year old piece from The New Statesman on women’s film making in the Middle East. Dunia sounds worth looking out for:

Dunia/Kiss Me Not on the Eyes (2005), directed by Jocelyne Saab, offers a far glossier, more commercial vision of Cairo. Starring the craggy pop star Mohamed Mounir and, like Cut and Paste, Egypt's sweetheart Hanan Turk, this story of an aspiring belly dancer and poetry student is so rich in funky hairstyles, vest tops and honed bodies that it looks like a pop video. Dunia has a camp dance master with a bleached fringe who pouts "Dance - the universe dances!" at her. Mounir, as a professor of Sufi poetry and master sensualist blinded by an extremist attacker (a similar incident happened in real life to the novelist Naguib Mahfouz), is equally over the top. Both of them - and Dunia's taxi-driver aunt, who gives as good as she gets in the knockabout street banter of Cairo's endless traffic jams - draw on the traditions of popular Egyptian films and soap operas.
But, however pop its style, Dunia is frank in exposing the destructive power of tradition over women's bodies. Dunia's dancing brings shame to her family - "I learned to sit like this so no one could glimpse my body," she says, curling into a ball. She battles, and fails, to save her young cousin from female circumcision by a backward village grandmother. And it emerges that her marriage has been crippled by her own mutilation.
The mixture of lingering body shots and female genital mutilation was too much for Egypt's censors, and after being heavily advertised the film was barred from general release on a technicality. Paradoxically, for a tale of a woman's search for physical and social liberation, it was the last film in which Turk starred before publicly adopting the Islamic hijab. This decision, made by one of the region's most adored young stars, marked the growing power of religion over popular culture - a power that will make it increasingly difficult to fund and screen relatively explicit films such as Dunia.
The trailer wasn’t that easy to find, but here it is:

(The piece of music on the soundtrack is El Ward by Mohamed Mounir.)


  1. There is a depth in this video, some indepth emotions. yea its good.

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