Dawood Abdel Sayed and Mohamed Khan on the revolution

Menna Taher, Wednesday 23 Feb 2011

Ahram Online talked with two of Egypt's most established veteran filmmakers about the revolution, the counter-revolution and the future of cinema

Abdel Sayed and Khan
Dawood Abdel Sayed (left) and Mohamed Khan (right) are two of Egypt's most established veteran filmmakers

"In the past few years I knew that some kind of explosion would occur but I didn’t know to what extent,” said Mohamed Khan, “strikes and protests were constantly being held"..

Yet, despite these speculations the revolution came as a pleasant surprise to him. His optimistic outlook on life and in his films - Khan’s films always have a hopeful ending - makes him confident about the future of Egypt.

Dawood Abdel Sayed, who participated in some protests, considers himself as someone in solidarity with the protestors, not as a protestor himself. On 25 January he had no expectations of what would happen that day.


“The revolution succeeded because there was a huge force, the majority, who wanted the regime out,” said Abdel Sayed.  “However, this force is not organised and has no leader, while the regime is very organised and is everywhere;  local newspapers, the current government and state television.”

Abdel Sayed maintains that the Muslim Brotherhood are another organised group, even if they are not large in number. He suggested that in order to ensure fair elections, the interim period should be 18 months or two years, with a neutral cabinet that is not from the NDP or any other political affiliation. “There also has to be a change in constitution and an end to the emergency law,” he added.

Khan says that in order for all their demands to be met there should be constant pressure from the people. However he believes that it will take time for all the changes to take place.

The role of films

“There were many films in the past  that showed contempt for the government and the regime,” said Abdel Sayed, “those that actually managed to pass the censors.” He cited Youssef Chahine’s Heya Fawda (This is Chaos) as one example.

Khan recalls his film Zawget Ragol Mohem (The wife of an important man) and says that it is very relevant to what’s happening now.

Both films capture police brutality, the excessive power of the police and the abuse and torture taking place in prisons.   

Abdel Sayed believes that the revolution has restored people’s political and social awareness. "People’s concerns do not merely revolve around the personal sphere,  but they are following what’s happening and will not stay silent about corruption. For thirty years people have been only complaining without taking any action and this has now evidently changed," he asserts.

When asked if some pro-regime films will be released as propaganda for the state as happened on state television, he said that there is a difference between a whole entity that works for the government and individuals. “Even if some films of that sort get released, I wouldn’t mind as long as there are other films that criticise the regime. That’s freedom of expression, ” he declares.

Khan maintains that the big-budget producers and stars that made official pro-Mubarak statements, should not be now out of favour as they are free to say whatever they want and shouldn’t be condemned for doing so.

'Their films should be unpopular for their poor quality and taste. There are films of that type all over the world,” he said, “but here there are so many and this should be changed.”

The film syndicate

The cinema makers syndicate has been on strike for the past week in order to ensure that the head of the syndicate, Mosaad Fouda leaves.

Both Khan and Abdel Sayed  agree that the head of the syndicate should be working in cinema.

“All the syndicates should have fair elections,” said Adel Sayed. “it is a well-known fact that there were many employees not working in the film industry, who voted in the  elections.”

He describes the syndicate as one of the entities under the supervision of the NDP and state security.

“Fouda was the right-hand man of Mamdouh El Leithy (the former head of the syndicate),” said Khan. “The syndicate needs a committee that works in cinema and considers the cinema makers’ needs.”

Short link: