(Lust) explores the life of Om Shooq (Sausan Badr) and her two daughters who live in a small alleyway in Alexandria. The film is the debut script of actor Sayed Ragab, who adapted his story into a script with the aid of a fund from Fonds Sud in France.
“I was drawn to how authentic the script was and how it felt like a real story,” says Khaled El Hagar, the film's director.
El Hagar's career kicked off in 1984 when he began collaborating with Youssef Chahine. He worked with the renowned director on Adieu Bonaparte (Farewell Bonaparte), Al Youm Al Sadis (The Sixth Day) and Alexandria Kamaan we Kamaan (Alexandria again and again). He then made a short film called Enta Omry (You're my Life), with Ahmad Kamal and Abla Kamel. He then moved to England and studied there for four years.
His first feature film was Ahlam Saghira (Small Dreams), produced by Youssef Chahine's company, Misr International, and Germany's ZDF. He made four shorts and went on to make Room To Rent, an English production starring Juliette Lewis and Saïd Taghmaoui.
El Hagar then went on to make three feature length films, including his latest Qubulat Masrouqa (Stolen Kisses).
El Shooq stars Sausan Badr, Ahmed Azmy, Mohamed Ramadan, and Ahmed Kamal, among others. The film’s other star, the ever-controversial Ruby, plays the role of Shouq. Her presence in El Shouq and El Hagar’s past controversy with Stolen Kisses have generated a minor controversy, with rumors spreading about the explicit nature of some of the film's scenes.
El Hagar dismisses this hype and says the movie was approved by the Censorship Bureau without remark. “The movie doesn’t contain any sex scenes nor does it even contain a single kiss,” says El Hagar.
Stolen Kisses was condemned by certain media outlets for what they claimed were gratuitous kisses, which many viewers perceived as immoral. Comments on several forums even went as far as to attempt to incite the murder of El Hagar for debasing the image of Egyptian girls. The comments were mostly removed when El Hagar filed an official caution threatening to sue the forums for allowing such messages to be published.
El Hagar says that El Shooq is about an alley in Alexandria and adresses the sexual repression, as well as the poverty and oppression, that can be found in such alleys.
Alexandria seems to be at the heart of three major Egyptian film releases of the year. It is the setting for Ibrahim El Batout independent film Hawi (The Juggler), which won the Best Arab Film award at the second Doha Tribecca Film Festival. The city is also the setting for Ahmed Abdallah’s latest film Microphone, which won the Carthage Film Festival’s top prize, the Gold Tanit, in Tunisia.
Alexandria is depicted quite different in each film. Microphone presents the city as vibrant and full of music and life. Hawi is a depiction of human loss and displacement. El Shooq explores an alley to give us a taste of darkness, repression and oppression.
El Shooq does not set out to be a microcosm of Egyptian society. “This is a common mistake,” says El Hagar. “No film can be said to represent Egypt. Not all alleys are like this. This is a story about certain people. People always look at a [local] story and worry about Egypt’s reputation, but a film is a story and it shows a truth. If the truth is ugly, then that’s that.”
El Hagar expects his film to stir needless controversy and many viewers to search for flaws and hidden meanings. Despite El Hagar’s reluctance to share any more details, he promises the movie and its ending will be shocking.
El Hagar has won over 30 awards for his movies and is currently filming a series titled Shubra, a joint production between the BBC and Misr International Films. Shubra stars Sausan Badr, Dalal Abdel Aziz and Ahmed Azmy. It is written by Amr El Dali and revolves around two families of different religions in Shubra. The story is about conflict and tolerance.
El Shooq will be screened in Family Cinema in Maadi on 5 December 2010 as part of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF).
Cast: Sausan Badr, Roubie, Koukie, Ahmed Azmy, Ahmed Kamal, Mohamed Ramadan, Sayed Ragab, Doaa Te’ama, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali.
Produced by: Mohamed Yassin; Music by: Hisham Gabr; Music Mixing: Alaa El Kashef; Written By: Sayed Ragab; Directed by: Khaled El Hagar