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Actor Rateb dies at 92

CAIRO, Sept 19 , 2018 - Veteran actor Gamil Rateb died early on Wednsday in Cairo at the age of 92 after a long struggle with illness.

He was one of the prominent Egyptian actors who played in French and US films.

Mourning Rateb, Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem said that he was a giant of Egyptian cinema and his work has made him immortal.

His funeral was held at Al Azhar mosque.

Rateb was born in Cairo in 1926.  He went to school in Egypt and to university in France. In 1949, he made his screen debut in the film “I am the East”.

He  acted in numerous Egyptian films, theatre and TV series.

One of his internationally-known roles is his part in the epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962, with Peter O’ Toole and the late actor Omar Sharif.

Lawlessness on the screen

By Ramadan A. Kader

The 1980s marked a milestone era in the history of the Egyptian cinema, which is more than 100 years old. The early 1980s witnessed a cinematic trend known as neo-realism espoused by such directorial greats as Atef el-Tayeb, Mohamed Khan and Samir Seif. Unlike their predecessors, the then young filmmakers focused on issues of interest to the lay people and those less fortunate. Their films were shot out on streets, capturing the public pulse and lending voices to the average people’s sufferings and hardships.

A frequent theme in the neo-realism films was the aftermath of the perceived ill-planned infitah open-door economic policy initiated by then president Anwar el-Sadat in the mid-1970s. Besides being blamed for promoting the culture of consumersim, the infitah was regarded as a tool that nurtured corruption rooted in a blend of authority and dubious affluence.

This collusion allowed the noveaux riches to act beyond the pale and become a law unto themselves – at least on the big screen.

One of the early Egyptian films that pointed the finger at the new class is Al-Ghoul (The Ghoul), a 1983 film directed by Samir Seif.

It tells the story of a divorced journalist, played by Adel Imam, who accidentally witnesses a murder committed by the scion of an influential tycoon, portrayed by acting legend Farid Shawki. With his connections and money, the tycoon is able to protect his son from punishment.

The journalist takes the law into his hands and carries out a mob justice against the businessman.

Makers of the "Ghoul" had had trouble with state censors, who objected to the final scene in the film, which shows the journalist kills his wealthy nemesis by a cleaver, an act reminiscent of the slaying of el-Sadat by militants in a parade two years earlier.

In 1986, Imam, one of the Arab world's greatest actors, starred in "Salam Ya Sahbi" (Adieu, Buddy) directed by Nader Galal.

The film, also co-starring Said Saleh, tells the story of two streetwise friends, who decide to make an honest living. But their ambition is hampered by market sharks, who kill Imam's close friend, played by Saleh.

The protagonist takes the law into his hands and sets out to settle the score with the murderous clique one after the other in chilling scenes.

Three years later, Imam depicts the hero of the marginalised in a rags-to-riches saga in his well-known film "Al Mouled" (The Fiesta), directed by Seif. The revengeful protagonist carries out extra judicial executions against his adversaries.

The same year also saw the release of "Welad El Eih" (The Bad Guys), a film starring iconic actor Ahmed Zaki and directed by Sherif Yehia.

Zaki plays an average civil servant, who suddenly finds himself caught in a gory web of events and hunted for a murder he has not committed.

The feeling of powerlessness is quintessentially summed up in an Egyptian proverb that goes: "He who has a back [friends in high positions] is not beaten in his tummy."

The notion that the powerful wealthy crust is hard to be brought to justice has over the years appealed to Egyptian filmmakers and resulted in box-office hits. The 2006 production "Wahed Min Al Nas" (An average Person) is a good example.

Starring actor Karim Abdul Aziz and directed by Ahmed Galal, the thriller tells the story of a poor garage guard, who by chance witnesses a crime involving top people. When he refuses to give a false testimony at the court, the big shots kill his wife and throw him into jail. When he walks out of prison, he takes the law into his hands and takes revenge on the wrongdoers.

Bitter-sweet critique

By Ramadan A. Kader

When it first hit the cinema screens in 2010, the comedy “Assal Eswed” (Black Honey) received mixed reactions. The film, starring comedian Ahmed Helmy, provides a view of an Egyptian-born American of his homeland that he left when he was a child. While some critics praised the picture as balanced and realistic, others panned it as unfair to the country and its image.

All the same, “Assal Eswed” was released to the general public without much hassle from censors and proved a box-office hit.

Directed by Khaled Mar’ei and based on a screenplay by Khaled Diab, the film tells the story of Masry Sayed (Egyptian the master), an Egyptian-US citizen, who returns to the homeland after his father’s death.

The protagonist, played by Helmy, is eager to revive his links with the motherland and capture its magic with the lens of his camera as a photographer. But a series of misfortunes he experiences since the minute he lands at the airport reshapes his idealistic expectations and brings him down to the earth and to the Egyptian realities.

He is conned by the driver who transports him from the airport to a Nile-side hotel. Traffic pandemonium and favouritism disappoint him. A horse owner, serving foreign tourists at the Pyramids, cheats him after he learns that he is originally an Egyptian.
Masry reaches the conclusion that foreigners receive better treatment in Egypt than natives.

He loses his US passport when attacked by angry demonstrators in an anti-Washington protest. The incident puts an end to the preferential treatment he received as a foreigner at the hotel.

His predicament deepens when in a fit of anger he flings away his Egyptian passport. Therefore, he is stranded in his homeland, which he desperately wants to leave for the US.

In his hectic attempt to get a new US passport, the protagonist wades through Egypt’s legendary red tape. Sensitive issues such as poor standards of education and transportation, bribery, unemployment as well as police abuses are featured sometimes in a manner that verges on black comedy.

The subtle criticism of the Egyptian lifestyle is convincingly counter-balanced, though. This happens when Masry rejoins his childhood friend Said and his family. Life with them proves an eye-opening experience for the disenchanted US citizen. They accommodate him until his father’s neighbouring long-neglected apartment is overhauled. Said’s family helps the protagonist to put his life in order and learns firsthand about the ordinary Egyptians’ life.

They suffer economically, but are socially interdependent. The bright (honey-like) side of the Egyptian life unfolds on such occasions as the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when Masry shares his hosts their sunset and pre-dawn meals. Mawaed el-Rahman, or Ramadan’s characteristic charity street banquets, are presented, boosting this feel – good factor.

On Eid al-Fitr, which follows Ramadan, his friend’s caring mother gives him a cash gift, an Egyptian age-old hallmark of celebrating the annual event. A sense of community is unmistakable in locals’ relations. They exchange sweet dishes in Ramadan. Said gives a lift to his neighbour’s schoolgirl on his rickety motorbike.

Having obtained a new US passport, the hero packs up to leave Egypt for the US. Minutes after his take-off, he changes his mind and decides to stay in Egypt and relishes its bitter-sweet life.

Eight years after its public screening, “Assal Eswed” is remembered for its theme song “There’s Something Sweet About It”. Composed by celebrated musician Omar Khayrat, the song has amounted to an informal national anthem.

Both the film and the song lyrics rediscover merits of the Egyptian way of living that are concealed under the surface of harsh realities. It’s one whole package. It has a taste of honey, which may be black in colour.



LOS ANGELES, May 5, 2018 — For John Travolta, "icon" will be the word at the Cannes Film Festival.

Trade publication Variety said Friday that Travolta will receive its inaugural Cinema Icon Award at this month's festival in France.

Steven Gaydos, Variety vice president and executive editor, said in a statement that Travolta's long career, popularity and honours "splendidly qualify" him for the recognition.

Travolta received an Oscar nomination for his star-making turn in 1977's "Saturday Night Fever" and another for 1994's "Pulp Fiction."

"Grease," released in 1978 and starring Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, is among the biggest movie musical hits ever.

Travolta will receive the Cinema Icon Award on May 15, following the premiere at Cannes of his new film, "Gotti."

Pitbull, who composed the film's score, will perform at the award event.

RIYADH, April, 19, 2018 - Saudi Arabia launched its first commercial movie theater, ending a nearly 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

A red carpet invitation-only gala event attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures to watch Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther” on a 45-foot screen at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh.

 “Saudis now are going to be able to go to a beautiful theater and watch movies the way they’re supposed to be watched: on a big screen,” Adam Aron, chief executive of operator AMC Entertainment Holdings, told Reuters ahead of the screening.

The smell of buttery popcorn filled the air as confetti rained down through the multi-story atrium where Aron and Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad al-Awwad announced the launch and proceeded into the 450-seat hall.

The opening marks another milestone for reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open the country culturally and diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter.

NEW YORK 18th April, 2018 - Comedian Amy Schumer has made a name for herself with her sharp wit and self-deprecating observations.

But Schumer, 33, says people have got the wrong idea about her new romantic comedy “I Feel Pretty,” about a woman who suffers from low self-esteem until she bangs her head and believes she has become a supermodel.

An early trailer for the film, which opens in US movie theaters on Friday, was heavily criticized on social media for appearing to fat-shame women whose bodies do not conform to fashionably slim and toned ideals.

Schumer, however, says the message of the film is female empowerment and self confidence, whatever one’s size or looks.

“I think that we were real careful with staying on message, which was that it’s not about how anybody else sees you. It’s about how you see yourself and who you are,” Schumer told Reuters Television.

“There was this kind of strange backlash at the trailer and it just made me excited for those people to see the movie and realize that that’s not what we’re doing,” she added.

Schumer plays New York bachelorette Renee Bennett, who looks in the mirror and finds herself neither pretty, slim, attractive or cool enough. When she tumbles off an exercise bicycle, she falls unconscious and wakes to see herself as the woman she always wanted to be.

Although her outward appearance has not changed, Renee is suffused with newfound confidence and charisma, lands a great job, finds a boyfriend and even enters a bikini contest. But she later realizes her appearance never changed at all and comes to understand that true self-esteem comes from within.

Schumer, who chronicled her own issues with self-esteem in her best-selling 2016 memoir “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” said she enjoyed playing the role.

“Just living that out, playing that role, convincing myself that I was a supermodel - it was so fun. And yeah, I left feeling, I guess, the most confident I ever have,” she said.

“I Feel Pretty” is Schumer’s third feature film after a breakout year in 2015 when she brought her writing and acting talents from television series “Inside Amy Schumer” to the big screen with the comedy “Trainwreck,” which she also wrote.

“I Feel Pretty” was written and directed by Abby Cohn and Marc Silverstein and co-stars Michelle Williams in a rare comedic role.

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