Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fast Food Cinema!

Hi, there.

Last week, a friend of mine asked me to go the movies with him. I said no. He got angry and told me I was an anti-social recluse who never goes anywhere, especially to the movies. I responded by saying that accusing a filmmaker of being an anti-social recluse was O.K; but accusing them of not wanting to go to the movies was an insult. So I had to explain.

My explanation went something like this.

I have a problem with Egyptian movies nowadays. Not a huge problem, but a problem nonetheless. It eats at me when I am sitting in a movie theater, and for some time now, it has almost ruined my film-going experience. The problem is unoriginality (if I wanted to be diplomatic) or, if you prefer, outright plagiarism!

One has only to look at the film listings page in any Egyptian newspaper and they will get exposed to some of the most shameful types of films to ever haunt the big screen in Egypt since the eighties, when the quality of Egyptian cinema hit an all time low, or at least that's what we thought at the time.

Egyptian cinema has transformed from the so-called "Hollywood" of the Middle East, to more or less a wasteland filled with Hollywood knock-offs and poorly written scripts. Most Egyptian film scripts are carbon copies of better foreign films, with bigger budgets and a hundred times more craftsmanship. You go into an Egyptian film expecting a "good time", whatever that means, and you get one of the following:

1- A trite love story that has been told so many times in so many better ways, that even the most die-hard romantic would have to gag from the amount of saccharine they are being asked to ingest.

2- A film that deals with "Social issues" i.e. stock sexual issues, vague political protest or pure sensationalism, that make any person with open eyes and a functional brain wonder how stupid the filmmakers think he/she is to accept what is on screen as anything but meaningless and unoriginal, and which, for the most part, doesn't reflect contemporary Egyptian society.

3- An all out actioner filled with lame explosions, hilariously bad dialogue, plotlines borrowed from hundreds of American (and better films) that all combine to numb the senses and make you feel that millions of Egyptian pounds have been thrown into a bonfire that makes loud noises and a pretty light.

As for recent Egyptian comedies, in my very humble opinion, they don't qualify as films at all, so the less said about them the better...

Many working screenwriters in Egypt have been plagiarizing ideas from each other and from Hollywood for so long now, that they have forgotten what it takes to make a good film. Originality. Original ideas are supreme, they are the essence of any good story and they make the audience stand up and take notice. The issue of unoriginality and stealing ideas has become so widespread and noticeable in Egyptian cinema that Egypt Today featured an in-depth article that I came across a while back, about the problem, which you can find here.

Then we come to the second part of the problem, the moviegoer. Moviegoers in Egypt have become so passive, so accustomed to the low-quality they have been subjected to in cinemas in recent years, that they don't even put up a fight anymore. If a certain film about a stoned, unemployed loser has become one of the most commercially successful films in Egyptian history, then we are at a crisis, and the Egyptian moviegoer has to help the industry out of it.

"Fast Food Cinema" i.e. cinema that is made of light and generic ingredients that is easy to digest and offers nothing thought-provoking, is a phenomenon that is occurring all over the world and not just Egypt, but the difference is: many film industries around the world are fighting back with independent and alternative films that offer new ideas, new thoughts and new styles that give the viewers something original to chew on other than fast food. Because in the end there is another known term for "fast food" and that is "junk food"!

No comments:

Post a Comment