Egyptian Khaled Yousef’s ‘Karma’ to be shown in cinemas during ‘Eid’ after censorship controversy

Egyptian director Khaled Yousef’s film ‘Karma’ will be shown in cinemas during Eid Al-Fitr. (Courtesy Khaled Youseff’s Facebook page)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Egyptian Khaled Yousef’s ‘Karma’ to be shown in cinemas during ‘Eid’ after censorship controversy

  • Intensive negotiations were carried out with officials at the Ministry of Culture and at the censorship body to allow ‘Karma’ to be shown.
  • Director Khaled Yousef said in comments on social media Tuesday that the ‘crisis is over’ as he offered his gratitude to the ‘state’s sovereign institutions.’

CAIRO: A controversial new Egyptian film had its license both withdrawn and returned on the same day after the ban sparked widespread anger.

“Karma” tackles many subjects regarded as very controversial in Egypt, such as inter-faith marriage between Muslims and Christians, the changing of religion to get married, and corruption.

The Central Administration for the Control of Audiovisual Works, which is the body responsible for authorizing films in cinemas, withdrew the movie’s screening certificate on Monday, before swiftly performing a U-turn and reinstating it. 

The two decisions came a day before the special screening of the film, and three days before being officially shown in theaters to begin the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

The withdrawal of the license quickly sparked a debate on social media, which then spread to the Egyptian parliament.

During a session of the House of Representatives, a number of deputies expressed dissatisfaction with the ban. 

The backlash extended to the culture ministry, where the Cinema Committee of the Supreme Council of Culture, headed by producer Mohamed Al-Adl, submitted a collective resignation in protest. 

They described the decision as an “unprecedented collapse in the climate of freedom of opinion and creativity at all levels and an insult to intellectuals, artists and Egyptians.” They added that this was an unjust interference by the authorities, and an assault on the constitution with disregard for the values of a democratic society.

“Karma” is directed by Khaled Youssef and stars Amr Saad. It follows similar themes to Youssef’s other movies, which have tackled subjects such as homosexuality and corruption. Some believe that his older movies were partly responsible for the 2011 uprising.

A group of filmmakers and intellectuals also issued a statement condemning the ban, saying “this disaster comes without justification and without logic.”

“We are in a state of catastrophe and this is an expropriation of the image of Egypt, the Arab world and the international world,” the statement said. 

It called on President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to speed up the intervention to cancel the resolution.

It only took a few hours until the administration issued its reversal of the decision, allowing the presentation of “Karma” to go ahead.

The announcement came from the director Youssef in a video posted on his Facebook page. He said that the film would be screened in full without any deleted scenes, or even sentences of dialogue.

Youssef thanked everyone who had intervened to solve the crisis, including the Egyptian parliament, Culture Minister Inas Abdel-Dayem and the Egyptian media. 

But the initial ban and the U-turn have angered filmmakers and film critics at a time when many have grave concerns over increased censorship in the country.

Youssef said that he still did not know the reasons for the ban, especially since the trailer for the film had been screened for more than a month and the screening license had been granted in April.

Critic Majida Khair Allah said: “It is clear that there is hostility to art and creativity in all its forms.
“Real creativity is the last wall against the currents of backwardness and barbarity.”

Ehab Turki, another film critic, said that the fiasco had been devastating to the Egyptian film industry.

Egypt’s film fans have been excitedly anticipating this year’s movie season.

Along with “Karma,” other strong films are due to premier, including “Karam’s War” by Amir Karara and “Ana wel Sorour” by Mohamed Emam.

“There is action, comedy and socialism in the films, which is rare,” said Turki. “The audience would have missed ‘Karma’ if the decision to ban had continued. Khaled Youssef’s films are very good because they discuss life issues that Egyptian society knows well.”


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 20 June 2018
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.