The Egyptian film scene was rocked last week by the decision of the president of the Egyptian Acting Syndicate Ashraf Zaki to limit Arab actors’ participation in Egyptian dramas to one production a year, be it a film or TV serial.
A large group of Egyptian actors have lauded Zaki for his historical decree.
According to several stars such as Ahmed Maher, Hussein El Imam and Ola Ghanem, the so-called Arab invasion has denied Egyptian actors many many opportunities as Egyptians working in the Egyptian film industry.
Zaki announced in an independent publication last week that the union “refuses to be a committee of pimps hinting that his indisputable decision has not been issued to grant Egyptian actors more opportunities, but primarily to save the industry from the indecency Arab actors have brought upon Egyptian cinema. He also clearly indicated that Arab actors are responsible for the dwindling “artistic state of Egyptian drama.
The most striking aspect of Zaki’s unfounded statement is the fact that it was uttered by an actor who was last seen in the cinematic crime that was “Tabakh El Ra’is (The President’s Chef) a couple of months ago.
Perhaps Zaki forgets that Egyptian cinema was founded by foreigners, sustained by actors from different creeds and races. Some of the best working actors in Egyptian cinema today hail from neighboring Arab countries (Hend Sabry, Gamal Soliman). And I can’t accept Zaki’s decision to blame the current state of Egyptian cinema on the handful of Arab actors working in the local film scene.
If Zaki is indeed concerned about Egyptian cinema, he should start going after Egyptian producers and superstars who virtually monopolize the film industry. And despite the fact that the majority of mainstream Egyptian films are below average, the film industry is, at the end of the day, a free market where such films should exist as long as the public continue to pay to watch them.
We’re no longer a socialist state where a small number of individuals are superior by default because they have the authority to subjectively decide what constitutes a work of true artistic merit and what doesn’t.
Zaki’s decision, as well as the Egyptian actors who jumped on the bandwagon, is, as revered scriptwriter Wahid Hamed said, a “dumb verdict that also feels racist and unjust.
Through the numerous interviews he gave last weekZaki assumed the moralistic voice of an autocrat abusing his position. Actors are actors, regardless of their nationality or background. If Arab actors charge less and are more liberal than their Egyptian counterparts, then so be it as long as it doesn’t challenge the economics of the market.
I’m not sure if the decision of Egypt s Acting Syndicate chief will be overruled in the future. but for now, his decision constitutes another shameful chapter in our established, so-called open film industry.