An astounding fact that I have come to learn in that the first feature film in Egypt was in fact directed by a woman.... Aziza Amir produced Egypt's first feature film, "Laila," in 1927. Numerous women directed and produced films in the 1940s through the mid-'60s, during Egypt's golden age of cinema, which ended when then President Abdel Nasser took state control of the cinema industry. Women have yet to regain their power in the industry. Aziza Amir was Born in Domiat in 1901.... so she was only 26 years old when she took that major milestone.
It is quite clear that most of the Egyptian movie pioneers were women. Examples Aziza Amir , Fatma Rushdi, and Assia.Although not all of them had enough personal funds, there were people in the community who respected and admired them, and were ready to fund their ventures into the world of movie making. Another important note is that these people did not care about each others religion, or political points of view, and they all worked together to introduce the movie industry into a country that had never seen it before, only one year after the first movie was ever made in the world. An example of this is Fatma Rushdie, whose work was funded by a Jewish man called Elie Derie.
Women were pioneers at a time when they needed to struggle and persevere to continue the project. When Aziza Amir made her film Laila in 1927, Talaat Harb told her the famous statement: “You have done what no man dared to do”, because he had been unwilling to risk a long movie, and was content with short movies. All of the hard work eventully paid off, so we can safely say that the foundation of the biggest movie industry in the Middle East was placed by women, and the golden age of that industry was accomplished by both men and women working side by side.
This brings me to the main point of this post.... Whatever happened to the Egyptian movie industry? Where have all the women gone and why are actresses getting fewer and fewer roles, why are women rarely, if ever, the main stars in movies? Why have they been sidelined? The main complaint by Egyptian actresses, that I read and see, is that writers don't write roles for women, and producers do not produce movies for women... It is quite obvious that the wahabization of Egypt has affected our movie industry, and is threatening to destroy over 100 years of work. Add to all of that the increasing number of Egyptian actresses who are obviously in great distress, and are sufferring mentally and intelectually from the wahabist push in the ultra extreme conservative oppressive direction, who suddenly quit work, wear hegab, announce o the world that they are quitting the "sin" of acting and wish God will forgive them.... some have even wore a hegab, and then took it off, then put it back on... or even a niqab! It is quite clear that the actresses of today are hesitant, unrealistic, and confused... Which doesn't help with the current image of women in the media, and which makes women less likely to be taken seriously by their male colleagues.
When it comes to directors on the other hand, it is a totally different story. There are only a few female movie directors, but these women had to fight against great odds to get into the field of directing which has been predominantly run by males since Nasser took over the film industry (as opposed to to how easy it was for men to get into the industry when it was run mainly by women... makes you wonder why men would be so insecure as to opose a woman doing the same job?!) A few examples are Hala Khalil, Sandra Nashat, and of course Egypt's most established and controversial female movie director Inas El Degheidy. All 3 women have been quoted at one point of time saying that they had to stand up to family and to the community around them in order to enter the field of movie directing.. as well as the blatant discrimination in the work field against them simply for being women. When speaking about Inas Eldegheidy in particular, it is clear to see that she has drawn the most criticism because of th nature of her movies. Most of her movies have a main theme.. that is the idea of feminism, and the injustices suffered by Egyptian women in particular due to unfair laws (for example "3afwan ayoha alqanoon", and many others). In our current society, many if not most (but definatly not all) men find this kind of woman intimidating. They fear a woman who is loud enough to be heard and influential enough will some how shake the foundation o the wahabi infiltration into the Egyptian household, thus shaking their egos and sense of self worth... so by the extreme criticism of her work, the feel that in part they are not just fighting the movie's idea, but also fighting any woman who dares complain of the chauvanistic culture that exists.
On a lighter note, I have come to learnthat An American Play I had mentioned before "The Vagina Monologues", actually has an Egyptian version!! It is called "KALAM FI SERRI" Directed by Riham Abdlrazik, who also acts in the play. It played last November in The Cairo Opera House as a part of the second female play directors festival in Cairo. The show aso travelled outside of Egypt, and played in Tunisia in December of 2007.
Even though the play showed in Egypt,it was not without repercussions....Of course, all the opressive anti-woman media moguls objected and theMuslim brotherhood interfered. Mohsen Radi, the MB representative in the Democratic party decided to sue and ban the show, since according to his ideas, the words women an sex cannot be placed together in one sentence as it is "insulting" to the communiy. He claimed that they have crossed all the lines, and have discussed things that should not be mentioned, and that this will result in immoral sexual practices in the community!!! The good thing though is that for once people were not intimidated by the MB's and the ministry of culure ( wezaret althaqafa) Criticized the attack of the MB's on the show stating that the MB's were not truthful , and lacked objectivity in their counterproductive argument, and that they are trying to "ye7agebo" the movie industry :)
The one conclusion I have is that we need freedom of speach, and the MB are doing their best to prevent women expressing themselves in the ,media.... starting by suing actresses who decide to take off the hegab, to plays they dont approve of, to accusing women of attacking religion in movies and plays, thus inflaming society against them, to deciding that certain shows should not discuss problems in society that pretain to certain women, as thay have done to Hala Sar7an when she discussed prostitution in Egypt, and as they are doing with Kalam fi Serri.
Overall , the way I see things is that women have revolutionized a country... and not just one country, but an entire region of the world. Since Egyptian media was the only media for a very long time, and it was only over the past 10 years that other Arabic speaking countries have begun to have a media that is beginning to be somewhat influential. I have yet to see a movie in Arabic that gets as much attention, or publicity, or influence as any Egyptian movie. If women at that time were opressed, this revolution would not have happened. The opression of women is the opression of society. It is the loss of great minds and great ideas. It is the loss of advancement in different fields, and the loss of potential benefits to our country. Wahabists know this , so their main attack is always an attack on women and their freedom and their rights. They do this to weaken us, so they can be the dominant power in the region. Their power and influence comes from oil, which we lack.. However, we have something far better than oil. We have manpower, a bigger population that is more educated than any of the wahabi countries. By sidelining half of this population, they are cutting Egypt's main source of strength and progress in half. They are sending us back in time. We all need to stand up for women and stop the blatant attacks on all their efforts and hard work. When we stand up for women we are standing up for society. When we stand up for society we are standing up for a better future and a better Egypt. Lets all unite and fight for a better Egypt. We need our voices to be heard. We want women to be given their rightful place in the media. The one they have worked so hard to get, yet was stolen right before their very eyes in the name of extremism and mysogyny.