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.
But I’ll bet you a hell of a lot of Egyptians will stream it.
This is what media needs to do, push boundaries. American TV and movies used to do that, now they’ve gone the other way and so much media seems to be more worried about catering to right wingers and not offending the crazies.
When I vacationed in Egypt some time back, I found that the Egyptian men cruised incessantly. It was explained to me that they couldn’t have sex with another woman outside of marriage because the woman would be known as an adulterer. This left only men, but in their community, such contacts were too close to home for anonymity, and so tourists were their major outlet. I fondly remember a blond green-eyed Egyptian and others, like a gardener at Mina House who laid out fresh sheets on the grass behind hedges at the foot of the night-illuminated Great Pyramid.
What Dr. John says above is so true. Egyptian men are so available and so workable that it surprised me. As a tourist, though, a sexual engagement is risky for both people.
Yeah, got to be super careful when out of this country, especially in the Middle East or any Islamic country.
With very little exception, homosexuality is the love that dare not speak it name in the Muslim world. A life on the DL isn’t fun especially when it’s not a choice. And most intellectuals who remain in the Muslim world have regressed into Islamic fundamentalism, so they’re the opposite of helpful.
Little lights at the end of the tunnel like this film are lifelines for those trapped in theocratic oppression — the gay community in the democratic world should do what it can to support and boost such expression.
Funny how religious and straight people think they can just legislate us out of existence. I’m 70, I’ve done more than my share of time in the closet in the 50s and 60s, not doing that again. Law makers can’t wave a wand and have us gone and if they did, they would just go out and make more of us. It’s not like our breeding is going to produce more gay babies…no it’s the heterosexuals who keep procreating and making more of us. It’s not only their fault we were jammed in a closet for millennia but their fault that we exist in the first place.
I’m 75 and I agree 100%. Plus with the rise of nazism in the Republican Party here in the US, I’m getting ready to protect myself against their hatred when it becomes full blown. We’re going to see over the next few years increases here in becoming more like the Islamic laws are there.
I do agree. I am too old to go back now. I have scars on my right arm from beatings by homophobes, I won’t live through that again.
I grew up before AIDS and saw how horrible it had been for the older guys to never get out of the closet having to give up lovers and lose jobs because of being gay. Trust us older guys you do not want to have to live like that and the gop is comin for us. Dont let these stupid trolls convince you otherwise. If you had heard of what they wanted to happen to people who had AIDS in the beginning. Just monsterous
send your hot middle eastern men here, such a shame other countries are so so backward and dangerous to our life and health
I think the men of the republican party need to take their dog and pony show to Egypt. They would all feel very at home there, between the endless cruising of other men, as well as the countries primitive sexual beliefs, I think they would love it there, and the rest of us would be rid of them. A win-win, I think.
How deeply sad that such primitive beliefs as those in Egypt continue in the 21st century. Oh, and in Texas and Florida and throughout the South. Hate is hate and cloaking it in any manner of religious or societal justification is simply wrong, and yet, homophobia in all its forms and expressions is rapidly gaining ground as the world lurches further into extremism and irrationalism. We all need to be mindful and careful because “they” are really coming after us in the most vicious ways possible.