Sunday, 14 February 2010

Flirting with tradition

I had a wonderful evening at the Filmhouse tonight, watching the Egyptian film Ghazal el Banat (The Flirtation of Girls). This is a 1940s Egyptian comedy musical with a story that could easily translate to a Hollywood setting - but with an emotional intensity in the acting and characterisation that could only be reflective of Egyptian cinema and culture.

The film features Leila Mourad, a hugely popular Egyptian singer who was of Jewish origin. A beautiful opening sequence features Leila (who happened to be playing a girl called Leila) riding through the forest with her friends singing Etmakhtari Ya Khail (Sing and Dance with the Horses).

Here it is:

It also starred the great comic actor Naguib el Rihani, who incidentally was married to Badia Masabny - the founder of the famous nightclub which featured dancers like Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca.

Comedy sequences, chorus girls that appear out of nowhere to tapdance in stilletos, the beautiful sound of Egyptian Arabic, music, poetry and song, all given a sensitive translation, made this film an utter delight.

There was also an appearance of Mohammed Abdel el Wahab who strangely happens to be rehearsing at two o' clock in the morning, along with his 100 piece orchestra complete with choir, inside the house of film director Youssef Wahbi.

You can read a particularly nice review of the film here.

Thanks to Neill Walker at the Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, and the Filmhouse for bringing this film to Edinburgh. Merci!

Photo shows Leila Mourad

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