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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Faten Hamama, saying goodbye to a time of beauty

The 'Lady of the Arabic Screen' passed away on Saturday at the age of 84

Randa Ali , Sunday 18 Jan 2015
Faten Hamama
Faten Hamama (1931 - 2015)
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In an Egypt dominated by political developments, news and debates, one video caught all eyes and went viral in 2013: an interview with an eloquent, elegant and charming as ever Faten Hamama.

Conducted in the 1960s, the video triggered a bittersweet nostalgia that reminded many people of where we stand today: sexual harassment, illiteracy, poverty, and the bare existence of anything that can be called beautiful.

Forty years ago Hamama spoke proudly about her job as an actress in spite of obstacles that she faced from a society that looked down on her career. She was advocating the liberation of women, and advised young girls to stand up against their parents and struggle for their freedom.

Watching that interview, one would be less surprised if one had studied Hamama’s choice of characters: strong-willed, freedom-hungry women who continuously push for more rights.

The Open Door
Faten Hamama as Layla, leading a protest in the Open Door 1964

In the wake of the January 25 revolution, many young women saw themselves in her as she played Layla, The Open Door (1964), a young woman who tries to join the fight for Egypt’s liberation and herself, culminating with her joining the political resistance during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

In her 1975 film, I Want a Solution, she was the first to speak up against laws governing marriage and divorce in Egypt, which were mostly biased to the man, and demand women’s right to divorce.

The 84-year-old passed away on Saturday evening. The late actress had reportedly been suffering from deteriorating health and was recently briefly hospitalised.

Ahmed Abdullah, director of Décor—released two weeks ago—mourned the late actress via Twitter. Abdullah’s film told the story of a woman who is obsessed with old films—ones starring Hamama. Footage and references to Hamama’s classic films are shown throughout the film.

“At least in our own way we got to say goodbye to Faten Hamama before she leaves. We had a dream of showing her Décor but it was too late. We love you,” Abdullah wrote.

For their part, the Egyptian presidency issued a statement mourning the late actress.

“Egypt and the Arab world has lost a creative and valuable figure which for long has enriched Egyptian arts with her sophisticated work,” read the statement.

Hamama’s passion for cinema resulted in a career that spanned over 60 years and more than 100 films. She stood in front of the camera for the first time aged seven in 1935 to film Happy Day, alongside music legend Mohamed Abdel-Wahab.

Hamama’s talent continued to grow and by the early 60s she had become one of the most important actresses in Egypt.

She came to be known as the ‘Lady of the Arabic Screen’.

Cannes
Faten Hamama, Youssef Chahine, Jacques Pascal, at Cannes Film Festival 1952

Hamama’s career was highlighted by numerous collaborations with the most prominent filmmakers in the history of Egyptian cinema, including international acclaimed director Youssef Chahine, Kamal El-Sheikh and Salah Abou Seif.

However, it was with Henry Barakat that she worked the most. Working together for almost 30 years Barakat and Hamama produced many memorable classics that remain pillars of cinema in Egypt.

Their masterpiece The Sin (1965) was recently screened as part of the Cairo International Film Festival's celebration of Barakat's 100th anniversary. 

Based on a novel by Youssef Idris, the film and the novel show the oppression that peasants, especially landless ones, faced before the 1952 revolution, which brought in radical agricultural reforms that allowed farmers to own their land. It was nominated for the Prix International award at Cannes.

Hamama also starred in several films with her ex-husband and prominent actor Omar Sharif, including Struggle in the Valley (1954), The River of Love (1960), based on Tolstoy’s Anna Karanina, and the Lady of the Palace (1958). The two remained Egypt’s favorite romantic couple in spite of their separation in the 1970s.

For many people in younger generations who dreamed and still dream of a better Egypt, Faten Hamama was more than just a brilliantly talented actress.

She represented a more beautiful time, a political will—even if fictional, the realisation of a progressive cultural and social dream that now 40 years later is still being yearned for and can only be lived and experienced inside a black box and a screen.

Today people are saddened by Hamama's departure, and among these crowds many also feel sorry for themselves as they continue to drift alone as far as can be from a time that held the last traces of beauty.

(Below is the above mentioned interview)

Short link:

 

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Neo
20-01-2015 01:52am
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Women were free, and men were civil
You can argue whether Egypt was better off, then … Just look at the photo in the article; women were free to wear what they want, and men were civil, educated, and cultured. It is sad to see the devolution of once, a great center for art and civility. Maybe we need to start with how we treat women in Egypt today, and stop blocking them from rising in careers and politics. Mr. President; this is your next call in your march for reform.
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7



Hani Booz
20-01-2015 01:42am
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our condolences to the family and the nation
We have lost one of the best actress also highly respected in the history of Egyptian Cinema.A mile stone of Egyptian cinema golden age.She excelled as a child actor and matured as perfect character actor.We enjoyed her many exellant films over 5 decades.She made me cry watching her in ' between the hills' and again the tears are running after her death. May God bless her soul and give her mercy.As a kid I used to watch her films in cinema Miranda which I believe was later changed to her name.I feel sorry for her ex husband Omar Sharif.
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journalist
19-01-2015 06:42pm
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it's doesn't matter !
it doesn't matter what is the medium that she had used for presenting her message.in other words , naked or veiled, just Allah judges! but the most important thing is that she changed numerous principles and concepts in the Egyptian society. let's put our differences aside, and we must say "rest the departed soul in peace" as everyone must pass away
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Rania Khaled
19-01-2015 05:46pm
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Some confusion
Saddened by the death of the great Faten Hamama. But I don't understand this paragraph which repeats itself in different forms later in this piece: "Conducted in the 1960s, the video triggered a bittersweet nostalgia that reminded many people of where we stand today: sexual harassment, illiteracy, poverty, and the bare existence of anything that can be called beautiful." And what does "progressive cultural and social dream" mean and what does she have to do with it? "She represented a more beautiful time, a political will—even if fictional, the realisation of a progressive cultural and social dream that now 40 years later is still being yearned for and can only be lived and experienced inside a black box and a screen."
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Carolina Bracco
19-01-2015 02:55pm
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El shasha loves you ya Faten
I first heard about her when I´ve just arrived in Cairo and lived for a short period of time in Manial, next to Faten Hamama Cinema. I didn´t have a clue what that name means or whos she was. Later on, in my 4-year-stancy in Masr learnt a lot on el nugum al masreya even by specialating on dancers. Egyptians should be proud of her, I am, art is. Salam, allah yerhamek habibty. You left a great legacy, even for those who are so narrow minded that aboid beauty from entering in their souls.
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Nadia Soliman
18-01-2015 11:25pm
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The golden years
A great woman,great time with amazing talent and elegance. Something unfortunately we do not see in women these days. Egypt has changed forever,it will never go back to those golden years, the years of love, sophistications,elegance, etc,etc,etc Faten will always be in our hearts,she may RIP
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Noura Gamal
18-01-2015 10:25pm
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It was not a time of beauty, it was a time of collective intoxication
Other Nations were busy manufacturing and inventing while Egyptians were busy watching semi-naked immoral women corrupting the morals of young Egyptian men and women. It was a beautiful time...it was a time characterized by the absence of national sonsciousness. This disorientation in the Egyptian culture eventually brought Egypt where it is now...povery, political tyranny, illieteracy and ignorance.
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Allen
19-01-2015 04:32am
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316+
You nailed it right on the head Noura.... Illiteracy and ignorance.
Two qualities that are abundantly clear as one reads your post. Sadly you could not even spell illiteracy. You should be proud though, you poses all the shortcomings of a typical Muslim brotherhood.
Democracia
19-01-2015 12:19am
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125+
Poor person
Sorry to say, but you really have no mind at all... Poor person you are to see it as you see it.... You have my full compassion!
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Allen
18-01-2015 06:34pm
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289+
Nice to see a courageous woman
Who has not given into terrorists to cover her head. Good for her, there should be more of her that would stand up to Stone Age men.
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