CAIRO: Tackling the murky waters of police corruption, bold cinema director Youssef Chahine’s latest offering “Heya Fawda (Is it Chaos?) is causing a stir, even before its producers submit it to the censorship authorities.
Speculations are already shrouding the movie as to whether it will receive the necessary permit to be shown in Egyptian theaters.
The film is about a confrontation between a corrupt policeman, played by Khaled Saleh, who abuses his powers to oppress the neighborhood residents, and a young district attorney, played by Youssef Al Sherif.
“The movie discusses issues and events that have taken place in Egypt in the past five years, Walid Abu Al Seoud, media spokesperson for Chahine’s production company Aflam Misr Al Alameya, told Daily News Egypt.
In the trailer, actor Khaled Saleh, dressed in police uniform, shouts: “Don’t you dare think the country is lawless. This country has a government. And this government is me. The trailer ends with the words: “When does the chaos end?
Rumors have been surrounding the movie ever since its inception. Some news reports claimed it would be out in the summer or during the Eid vacation.
Yet while many blamed the alleged delay of the film’s release on the censors, Abu Al Seoud insists that the movie was scheduled for release on Dec. 5, 2007 all along.
“We haven’t shown it to the censorship authorities yet, so how could they have banned it already?
For their part, censorship authorities confirm that the production company still hasn’t sent them the movie for review.
“But we had read the movie script and approved it, Ali Abu Shady, head of the Film Censorship Authority told Daily News Egypt.
“It is known that Youssef Chahine movies take a long time in the making, Abu Al Seoud explains. “Scriptwriter Nasser Abdel Rahman spent a whole year writing. The shooting lasted from November 2006 until March 2007, before which there was a rehearsal period of six months.
Police brutality and corruption has taken center stage in recent years. Independent newspapers and television shows covered the issue extensively after blogs posted a series of clips showing policemen torturing civilians at police stations.
This comes after a wave of political dissidence hit Egypt in the last few years, triggered by the Kefaya movement for change; and the country’s first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005 which left Ayman Nour, the strongest adversary to incumbent President Hosni Mubarak, in jail. The past few years have also seen the independent media become increasingly vocal in its criticism of the government.
Bloggers have also played a major role in breaking torture stories and posting the notorious “torture clips on their blogs. The most famous of those clips was one involving police captain Islam Nabih who was caught on tape torturing and sexually assaulting microbus driver Emad El Kabir in Boulak Al Dakrour police station.
The horrific scene was posted on blogs exposing Nabih’s face to the world. El Kabir says that Nabih’s colleagues shot the video themselves and sent it to other people in the neighborhood to set him up as an example for those who dare to defy the police and terrify them.
Wael Abbas, the blogger who exposed a lot of these “torture clips says he supports any movie that discusses the issue, but he still doesn’t have a clear idea about the movie yet.
Abbas explains that in recent years the media has been producing better movies critical of the government. “Of course the government wouldn’t have volunteered to approve such movies. This improvement in is the result of pressure from the blogs and the political activity of the past few years, which raised the ceiling of demands.
The outspoken 81-year-old Chahine is known for his opposition to the government. He once told AFP in an interview that even though he didn’t join the Kefaya movement, he takes part in some of their activities.
“Heya Fawda is co-directed by Chahine and his protégé Khaled Youssef and stars Khaled Saleh, Menna Shalaby, Youssef Al Sherif, Hala Sedky, Hala Fakher, Dorra and Omar Abdel Gelil.
The film was hitherto screened at The Venice Film Festival and the London Film Festival.