Egyptian lawyer calls for stripping director of citizenship for film on gay couple
In another attack against artistic freedom, a lawyer filed this week an official complaint in Egypt, calling on the government to strip a director of his Egyptian citizenship for making a Germany-produced film that portrays a gay couple.
"The Egyptian people will not accept this type of films,” lawyer Ayman Mahfouz told Egyptian ETC satellite TV channel, accusing filmmaker Mohamad Shawky Hassan of “promoting homosexuality”.
Directed and written by Hassan, 'Bashtaalak Sa’at (I, sometimes, miss you)' was screened during the Forum of the 72nd round of the Berlin International Film Festival. It is also promoted under the English title ‘Shall I compare you to a Summer’s Day?’
Although the film does not represent Egypt at the festival and is produced by a German company, some viewers and critics have labelled it as Egyptian for the nationality of its director and a number of actors.
“Apart from the fact that some actors speak in the Egyptian dialect in the movie, the setting is unidentified,” film critic Tarek El-Shenawy told Egyptian El-Kahera Wal Nas satellite TV channel.
According to Shenawy, the film does not promote homosexuality. Rather, it depicts a relationship between two men, but “it neither positively or negatively tackles homosexuality.”
“When a homosexual character is portrayed in Egyptian drama, it is usually judged morally,” Shenawy explained.
“The Arab culture… condemns homosexuality… unlike the West, which considers it a choice,” he argued.
Unlike Egypt, homosexuality is legal in Germany.
In January lawyer Ayman Mahfouz had filed a complaint before the prosecutor general against Mohamed Hefzy, the Egyptian co-producer of Netflix film 'Ashab Wala Aaz (Perfect Strangers)', accusing him of violating social principles. The film also depicts homosexuality among other social taboos.
'Bashtaalak Sa’at' has prompted an outcry across Egypt, especially on social media, even though its trailer has not been released online so far.
A user tweeted in Arabic Egyptian dialect, attaching the film's poster and pictures while recalling the backlash caused by ‘Ashab Wala Aaz’, which stars Egyptian renowned actress Mona Zaki. “After the scandal of Mona Zaki’s film, there comes a bigger one… currently screened in Berlin… Most probably, it will win [the contest] to promote this type of movies in order to spread them in the Arab World. Take care of your children,” read the tweet.
The theme of homosexuality has been depicted more than once in Egyptian movies over the past years, leading to controversies - among them the 2006 film ‘The Yacoubian Building (Emaret Yaacoubian)’, which is based on a novel written by award-winning author Alaa Al-Aswany and involves the character of a gay journalist.
Seven years later, the Egyptian film ‘Family Secrets (Asrar Aeliya)’ portrayed the inner-crisis of a young man questioning his sexual orientation.