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Women’s Cinema from Tangiers to Tehran

Thursday, March 12, 2009
6:30 p.m. An Egyptian Salad
Nadia Kamel (Egypt/France/Switzerland, 2007)

(Salata baladi, a.ka. Salad House). Nadia Kamel, longtime assistant to Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine, turns the camera on her remarkable family in this intricate work that expands the conventions of a “home movie” into a “nation movie,” to unveil the rich diversity and complexity of contemporary Egypt and the Middle East. At the film’s heart is Kamel’s mother Naela Kamel, born Marie Elie Rosenthal: part Jewish, part Muslim, part Christian; Italian, Arab, communist, feminist, communist, wife, mother, and grandmother. Her fascinating story is told through visits with family members in Italy, Israel, and Palestine, and uncovers a dizzying array of ties across an even more dizzying array of national and religious borders. “Egypt is full of nationalities; we’re all mixed,” agrees a gathering of women; “if not told, stories will perish.” Kamel’s film makes sure these stories, and countless others, survive, not only as portraits of remarkable women, but as antidotes to the politics of national and religious “purity,” whether in Egypt, Israel, or any nation.

• Written by Kamel. Photographed by Ibrahim El Battout, Kamel. (105 mins, In Arabic with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta)