Taboo kicked off its wedges highlighting the characters and social aspects of Cairo where the good meets the bad, the pure meets the stained and the beautiful meets the ugly. The film co-written and directed by Hisham El Essawy is a clear portrait of Cairo’s turmoil and injustice with its social tribulations that blends with money, society, relationships and religious beliefs.
The film starring Mohamed Ramadan, Maryhan and Sannaa Mozyan, displays the life of Cairo’s upper and lower societies and their daily synchronization between one another. It talks about two young lovers from different religions, who against all odds, want to survive the brutal living of the city whether by fighting it or running away from it. “Cairo is a very harsh city. And in the film, everyone wanted to get out of their environment whether it was Egypt, Cairo or their neighborhood and everyone had a different reason”, Hisham El Essawy, Director and Co-writer says.
In 2009, Hisham came up with his film when he visited Cairo after spending many years in the U.S.A, “When I came back, I used to hear everyone talking about a common thing, from the cab driver to my friends who live in Kattameya Heights; everyone said ‘I’m suffocated’. Everyone wanted to get out of Egypt regardless their social status”, Hisham tells.
The film shows the different sacrifices some women from this part of society are ready to give in order to achieve a secured future. You get to see a woman who works as a prostitute in order to secure her son with a better living on the financial front. This character faces an inner conflict and keeps on asking Virgin Mary to forgive her. Another character decided to give up on love and romance and “restored” her virginity in order to get married to a rich Arab man who should escalate her to a better social level.
The love/hate relationship between Cairo and its people is widely shown in the film as well as some contradictions in Cairo where Maadi, the elite area is opposite to Dar El Salam, a lower social environment. The characters also had lots of contradictions and the director made sure to zoom in on that, “The Egyptian family has lots of contradictions. We always say that the American family is a dysfunctional one as they aren’t very connected and their divorce rate is very high but that’s not entirely true. There are lots of social problems in the core of the Egyptian society and that core is the Egyptian family”, he says. Hisham used another form of indirect proof that the Egyptian society is a pool of blended contradictions, for example Bob Marley’s music was the character’s favorite, although he doesn’t understand English, “I was surprised to see people who live in slums around Cairo listen to foreign music. The character in the film longed for another environment”, Hisham says.
The film faced obstacles with Egyptian censorship, “The minute they read the first paragraph of the script and found that the heroine is a Christian woman whose father in law was a gambler they rejected the idea. Religion has nothing to do with poverty. What’s really weird that State Security and Ministry of Interior said that there is a movie being made on sectarian strife so it must be stopped”, Hisham tells.
Hisham thinks that the artistic scene improved after the revolution, especially in music, “It has witnessed a major change, Egypt is a very inspirational country in general, and there are so much interesting things about it”, he added.
Hisham El Essawy is getting ready to make a new feature film called “The Day of Anger.”
Cairo Exit was screened at:
Dubai FF 2010
Tribeca FF 2011
Munich FF 2011 (winner)
Is screened commercially this year in France and Germany and will be released on DVD and TV.