Contact: Pakinam Refaat
Cairo, May 20, 2008, The Egyptian Underground Film Society (EUFS) is proud to announce the world premiere of its first production, All My Life, at Frameline 32, The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, June 19-29, 2008, the world’s oldest and largest queer film festival! All My Life falls firmly into the category of Queer Cinema. Its protagonists are gay men, and we see their problems facing up to persecution and discrimination, particularly in the wake of the 2001 witch-hunts against them, the most famous being the Queen Boat arrests in which 52 alleged homosexuals were tried in a national security court.
Although Egyptian cinema, since its inception, has presented many homosexual characters, most of these have been comic devices inserted to generate a few cheap laughs. The only serious portrayals of homosexuality have been through a few minor characters in a handful of Egyptian films like Salah Abou Seif's The Bathhouse of Malatily (1973), Youssef Chahine's Alexandria... Why? (1978), Asmaa Bakry's Beggars and Proude Ones (1991), Yousry Nasrallah's Marcides (1993), and Marwan Hamed’s The Yacoubian Building (2007). However, these were presented in a manner so subtle, merely hinted at, to be detected by the initiated.
All My Life tells the story of people whose story remains unheard. It is a tale of difference, of those who have been silenced and forced to disappear. The movie embodies the 1970s feminist quote, "The personal is political." Even now, human rights activists expect gays and lesbians to wait until other, "more important" issues are resolved. But piecemeal freedom is no freedom at all; and the most important step towards it is making sure the oppressed have a voice.
The title "Toul Omri/All My Life" is based on the title of an Egyptian song from the 1930s, "Toul Omri Ayesh Liwahdi" ("All My Life I've Lived Alone") by Mohamad Abdel-wahab. The song speaks of loneliness while among family and friends, and the search for a soulmate. Other than being the central metaphor for the film, the song (played briefly during the movie) also harks back to the spirit of an age, not so long ago, when society was more liberal and the spread of political fundamentalism had not yet encroached onto the private sphere.
All My Life was shot against overwhelming odds: a no-budget film shot on location in Cairo and California, it took three years to finish and depended on volunteer work and the assistance of the community. Shooting in the street, in borrowed locations and their own homes, the cast and crew of the movie doubled as key grips, boom operators, set builders and refreshment servers. The result was a team effort in every sense of the word.
Despite the risks (all the Egyptian scenes were shot guerrilla-style due to government restrictions on street filming,) it was absolutely indispensable for the film to be shot both in Egypt and California. While emigration is a theme of the movie, escape is not a solution: those who are different should not be harassed into abandoning their homeland. By utilizing Arab talent at home and in the diaspora, we hope to spark a dialogue spanning continents and bringing crucial issues out into the open.
According to the film's director/screenwriter Maher Sabry:
With the rise of the wave of conservatism in Egypt and the Arab world in recent years, artists have become increasingly unable to tackle a number of subjects that were dealt with in Egyptian cinema in the past. Last year, following the screening of Egyptian film The Yacoubian Building, 112 members of the Egyptian Parliament - one-quarter of the total - signed a petition demanding the removal of the scenes portraying the only homosexual character in the film. And yet, the portrayal of the gay character in Yacoubian Building is tame compared to the one in The Malatili Bathhouse in 1973, more than thirty years earlier. All My Life, a product of guerrilla filmmaking, breaks every taboo imposed by Egyptian censorship, sexual, social and political. According to the director,
For more information, or an interview with the director, please email Pakinam Refaat, at email@example.com
EUFS was founded in 2005 by a group of artists and intellectuals seeking a creative outlet away from the restrictions of censorship and conservative production values. EUFS is open to new members, both independent filmmakers and supporters of creative freedom. If you'd like more information about EUFS, or are interested in joining the group, please e-mail Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.