The outcry over a new film exploring same-sex relationships in both the historical and contemporary Middle East is sparking outcry in Egypt.
Bashtaalak Sa’at (Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?) screened at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this month. Written and directed by Egyptian-born Mohammad Shawky Hassan, it delves into gay relationships in Arab society, looking at a number of folk tales through the queer lens.
Despite a warm reception at the festival, government officials in Hassan’s native Egypt have already denounced the movie, and are taking steps to make sure it never screens in the country.
Arabian-language website Fil Fan reports:
The film will not be screened in Egypt for several reasons. The first is the unwillingness of production authorities to [cooperate] with the regulatory agencies in Egypt, especially since the film includes a large number of intimacy and sexuality scenes between male actors, which is inconsistent with Egyptian censorship laws. The second reason is that the film was primarily made for screening at film festivals.
But that’s just the beginning of the blowback.
Other prominent Egyptian nationals have condemned the film. Omar Abdel Aziz, head of Egypt’s Federation of Artistic Syndicates, blasted the movie for “presenting a work of art that highlights the worst of us.” Aziz then called on the Egyptian government to strip Hassan of his citizenship.
“With this immoral act, the Egyptian nationality has become an honor that this director who supports the idea of homosexuality cannot deserve,” he said, “and we must collectively fight this art that destroys the values of the religious and moral community, and replaces the relationship between men and women with a sinful relationship between men and men.”
At the time of this writing, Mohammad Shawky Hassan has not responded to the comments made by Egyptian officials, and the Egyptian government has yet to issue a formal ban on the film.
This isn’t the first time a film dealing with queer themes has sparked uproar in Egypt. Earlier this year, a Netflix-produced film titled Perfect Strangers met with a similar outcry in the country, as it deals with a character coming out as gay.
Watch Hassan talk about his new film below.