Two Girls from Egypt

On the plane to the UK I watched a 2010 Egyptian movie, Bintayn Min Masr (Two Girls From Egypt), written and directed by Mohamed Amin (a few details here).  It was kind of an earnest social-critique tearjerker melodrama, as you can see from the trailer:

Like all the other cultural production that has come out of Egypt in the past 10-15 years, this film can be said to “predict the Egyptian revolution” of Jan 25 (yes, the linked article is about a supercomputer model!) or at least lay bare the social frustrations that helped contribute to it (Khamissi, Aswany, etc).

The subtitles mistranslated the title as Egyptian Maidens, probably to emphasize that the desperate 30-something heroines were both virgins — a result of social constraints and their inability to find husbands.  The least expected (and perhaps the least watchable) scene was a conversation in which a group of young women explained this sad fact to… a visiting researcher from Boston University!  Of all things.  The American scholar was depicted as blonde and a bit slow, with an exaggerated American accent.

Other highlights. All the men in the film were either scoundrels working abroad, decent men arrested for falling afoul of the regime (two of these), or depressed. The heroine’s brother was nearly killed after an accident sank the ferry that was carrying him to a dead-end restaurant job in Saudi Arabia. Of the female characters young and old, the only one who occasionally appeared happy was a young nurse or doctor involved in a heterosexual relationship, albeit one that was “external” (i.e., sexual but not damaging to technical virginity) and “urfi” (protected by a customary agreement rather than a formal marriage certificate), and consummated mostly in supply closets.  Everyone else was single or widowed, and totally neurotic/miserable/psychosomatically ill, trying everything (dating offices, the Internet, airport lounge speed-dating with Gulf emigrants) to land a man.

Since I have kids, airplanes are about the only time I get to watch movies. Sometime I’ll tell you about Al-Dealer, another recent Egyptian film I saw on a recent flight to Beirut.  Equally melodramatic but much more exciting, and it touched on the former Soviet bloc!


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