EGYPT: Controversial film fails to hit screens

Hanan Turk, the star of the film.
By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

Cairo: One year after its premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival, Dunia, a taboo-breaking film about female genital mutilation (FGM), is unlikely to hit the screens any time soon.

The movie, written and directed by Lebanese filmmaker Jocelyn Saab, was lambasted by local critics who accused it of damaging the country's image.

Celebrated Egyptian actress Hanan Turk plays the title role of Dunia, a young woman who loves dancing despite the shame it brings to her family.

Her sex life with her spouse is hampered allegedly for being circumcised when she was a little girl. Dunia's artistic expression is, meanwhile, inhibited because she cannot quench her desire to dance.

Confronting traditions

She begins her search for ecstasy in poetry and dance. Ultimately, she must confront the traditions that have crippled her capacity before she can experience it.

Saab stresses that Dunia, a French-Canadian production, is also about "intellectual circumcision". "Society should not bury its head in the sand and should deal with sensitive issues frankly and honestly," she has said in Cairo. "The film tackles a single idea - freedom of both the body and thinking."

Rarely has an Arabic film handled the controversy of female mutilation. Muslim clerics say the practice is un-Islamic.

The film was dogged by problems even before it was made. Many prominent Egyptian actresses turned down the role of Dunia.

Turk burst into tears at a symposium in Cairo when journalists accused her of starring in a film that damages her country's image.

Posters of Dunia were removed from Cairo streets days after local newspapers declared that it would be released for public viewing.

Officials at the Egyptian censorship board denied in remarks to Gulf News that the film has been banned.

"The problem is now between the producer and the distributer over financial matters," said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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