Egyptian director fights censorship

Egyptian filmmakers who stray from cultural norms in their themes are likely to find themselves ostracized not only in the film community but in Egyptian society as a whole, director Khalid Al-Haggar has told the British Guardian newspaper. Al-Haggar said that his first feature, about an abortive love affair between an Arab and a Jew, not only was banned in Egypt, but he himself was shunned by half his friends and his mentor, the country’s leading film director, Youssef Chahine. “You’re not allowed to question anything in Egypt,” he told the newspaper. “If you’re not wholly with them, you’re against them.” Now living in London, Al-Haggar commented, “I can go back to Egypt now, but I couldn’t make any films unless they were completely anodyne [tranquilizing].” He said that his current film, Room for Rent, is relatively non-controversial and that originally the Cairo Film Festival invited him to show it there this year. “But I discovered that there was only one show — just for journalists and critics. The public wasn’t allowed in, so I refused.”