Mamnoa fails to impress at film festival

Farah Montasser, Thursday 19 May 2011

Despite its interesting approach, documentary film "Mamnoa" (Prohibited) by Amal Ramsis fails to impress


Amal Ramsis portrays Egypt’s state police in her 67-minute documentary film “Mamnoa” (Prohibited), opening on the third day of the fourth Arab-Iberoamerican Women Film Festival (16-20 May) at Creativity Centre, Cairo Opera House complex.

Ramsis depicts the director’s attempts to explore taboo subjects in pre-January 25 Egypt that ultimately helped trigger the revolution. Ramsis roams the streets of Cairo speaking with ordinary citizens. She interviews political activists Nawara Negm, Mohamed Wakid, and Ahram Online’s reporter Salma Shukrallah and others who spoke about topics previously suppressed by Mubarak’s state security police.

Among those topics are the police checkpoints that were common in many parts of Egypt (numbering over 1,000 according to Waked), the status of women and censorship. She discusses censorship in media, political parties and parliamentary participation.  The film also addresses the 30-year-old Emergency Law and the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, focusing on Mubarak’s denial of access to the Rafah borders of a group of activists travelling there to enter Gaza and provide support and aid to Palestinians. Towards the end of the film Ramsis explores Sheikh Imam’s music and his constant disputes with authorities.

Ramsis also questions the relationship between the police forces and the public. Interviewees describe the brutality of policemen and the death of Khaled Saeed of Alexandria, which helped trigger the January 25 Revolution. Ramsis’ interviews also included discussions of public sit-ins and the prohibition of peaceful demonstrations by the Mubarak regime.

Despite the film’s serious topic, the documentary is light and even comedic when characters mock the old regime.  Nawara Negm is most popular with the audience in this area. However, the director does not quite capture the depth of the subjects she tackles. She relies on single quotes and the impressions of her interviewees in a way that suggests the film might have been edited and cut more than necessary.

Regarding film technicalities, it was obvious the director held her own hand camera at all times. It would occasionally slip off her hand during interviews, and some shots were too close, showing half of her subjects’ faces.

The “Mamnoa” soundtrack is oriental music with a predominance of Tabla (drum) and Oud (Arab six string instrument). The film ends with one of Sheikh Imam’s lost tunes entitled “Mamnoa”, in which he describes how so much in Egypt is prohibited, yet his love for Egypt grows stronger the more things are forbidden.

Despite the restrictions of the former regime, the public ultimately insisted on their right of expression in the peaceful revolution and the ouster of the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Arab-Iberoamerican Women Film Festival – Thursday 19 May at the Creativity Centre, Opera House complex

Nesaa Al Mamlaka (Women of the Kingdom) documentary, 54 minutes, Lebanon 2010, directed by Rahma Abu Dana, 5p.m.

Ala Bo’ad Khams Dakai’k min Al Manzil (Five Minutes Away from Home) documentary, 52 minutes, Palestine/Turkey/Switzerland 2008, directed by Awad Nahid, 5p.m.

Rasa’el Bein Nesaa (Letters Among Women) short films, 20 minutes, 2011, directed by Lara Katia, 7p.m.

Khof (Fright) documentary, 90 minutes, Argentine/ Honduras 2008, directed by Lara Katia, 7p.m. 

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