Arabisk film: Noe skjer - desperasjon eller håp?

Hans Rustad

To fil­mer, en egyp­tisk og en marok­kansk, bry­ter kon­ven­sjo­nelle nor­mer for hva man kan vise på film. Den egyp­tiske “The Yacou­bian Buil­ding” er sam­funns­kri­tisk. Den marok­kanske,” MaRock”, vil bare vise his­to­rien om liv­ene til noen ung­dom­mer fra vel­stå­ende lag. Begge prø­ver ikke å for­stille seg, men skild­rer vir­ke­lig­he­ten som den er. Det pro­vo­se­rer mange.

The Yacou­bian Buil­ding,” due out later this month, expo­ses many uncom­for­table truths facing Egypt today: Isla­mic extre­mism, offi­cial cor­rup­tion, police bru­ta­lity, and class and gen­der inequalities.

With inter­nal and exter­nal pres­sure on the Arab world to libe­ra­lize, movies are becoming a key out­let of free expres­sion and a for­mat for exa­mi­ning evol­ving mores. Like acti­vists, jour­na­lists, and blog­gers who have been tes­ting the boun­da­ries, movie direc­tors are also pushing the limits of open­ness and influence.

Things are moving in the Arab world and people are becoming more and more aware of the impor­tance and vita­lity of having free­dom of expres­sion, so cinema would defi­nitely reflect this,” says Che­rif el-Shoubashi, the head of Cairo’s Inter­na­tio­nal Film Festival.

Based on a best-selling book of the same name, “The Yacou­bian Buil­ding” wea­ves toget­her the nar­ra­ti­ves of seve­ral cha­rac­ters, inclu­ding an Isla­mic mili­tant, a cor­rupt busi­ness­man, and a gay jour­na­list. It tells the story of con­tem­po­rary Egypt and all its pro­blems through the ten­ants of the Yacou­bian Buil­ding, an actual struc­ture in down­town Cairo. An ele­gant resi­dence built in 1937 to house Cairo’s bour­ge­ois elite, the buil­ding has fal­len into decay by the 1990s, when the film is set.

It’s far more frank and con­tro­ver­sial than movies we have seen until now,” says Egyp­tian cri­tic Mary Gha­d­ban. This was the movie’s goal, the film’s crea­tors say. “This is not a simple love story, where you have your popcorn and coke and go home. This is a shock­ing movie. The film is say­ing ‘wake up, there’s somet­hing wrong,’ ” says Pro­du­cer Emad el-Din Adeeb.

Egypt later til å være et sam­funn som kna­ker i sam­men­føy­nin­gene. Mubar­aks gjen­valg har utvan­net en hardt til­trengt reform. Ting går fort nedover.

When Egyp­ti­ans see this film, they will have to recon­si­der their lives and how not to make the same mis­ta­kes again,” says actress Youssra, who stars in the film and is so well known that she has dis­pensed with a last name. “We need to be shocked to rea­lize how badly things are going back­wards and how quickly things are going backwards.”

Også regis­sø­ren uttrykte seg slikt i et inter­vju P.A. Chris­ti­an­sen hadde med ham i Aften­pos­ten. Men hvis det står så ille til i Egypt må man lure på om det kan skje dra­ma­tiske ting.

Det er inter­es­sante å se det at det lages slike fil­mer i til­knyt­ning til debat­ten om Muhammed-tegningene. I Ves­ten var det mange som ropte opp om at man må vise hen­syn og være for­sik­tige. Nå er det kunst­nere i den ara­biske ver­den som gjør det stikk mot­satte: De tes­ter grensene.

The film chro­nic­les the lives of rich Casa­blanca teena­gers who drink alco­hol, smoke hashish, and make out in cars. It bre­aks a whole list of cinemagrap­hic taboos. The heroine Rita refu­ses to fast during Rama­dan, the Mus­lim holy month, and has a rela­tion­ship with a Jewish boy.

Well before the film came out in cine­mas, it was alre­ady part of the ongo­ing debate between Morocco’s secu­lar and libe­ral for­ces and its Isla­mist groups. The film’s sup­por­ters have champio­ned it as evi­dence of growing free­dom of speech.

In Morocco in 2006 a lot of things hap­pen that aren’t talked about and that aren’t shown, that may be con­trary to Isla­mic laws and social con­ven­tions,” says Mr. Karim Boukhary, a wri­ter for a French-language weekly news magazine, . “We don’t talk about these things because they’re taboo, because we’re afraid. This movie con­tri­bu­tes to pro­vo­king a debate. And it’s a jus­ti­fied and salutary debate.“

Two Arab movies push the bounds of cul­tural candor




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