mohamed diab’s cairo/kairo 678 which played at the moma at the end of this january 2013, is a controversial film which gives voice to a common situation which for most, remains unspeakable.
perfectly timed to coincide with the massive protests that recently engulfed egypt, mohamed diab’s cairo 678 is a blunt but powerful portrait of three women of varying social backgrounds rebelling against the sexual harassment endemic to that country’s culture. diab offers an acute insight into the psychological and social trauma that egyptian women have suffered for generations: to the sexual harassment fayza endures on the crowded bus of the title , to the nightly sexual demands from her boorish, brutal spouse who force-feeds herself onions every evening in order to discourage his advances.
the pop tunes of the day in the film and fayza’s taxi ride rattle to the lyrics “you ask about women/they are simply mad/they are all the same.”
one of the beauties of this film is its versatility: its ability to speak to every society, to every woman who is a victim of sexual harassment. to women in egypt, or india or afghanistan or any society that religion or tradition keep in fetters, and who are sexually harassed, physically abused and socially downtrodden. the modern egyptian women must put up with the male-centric traditions that surround them or be cast aside.
the well written and well-scripted trio of actresses in cairo 678 incarnate the face of all women subject to harassment in and out of egypt. the message that diab passes on to viewers is strong: women’s silence is punctured first by a hair pin then a pen knife. and while i am not advocating violence as a solution to ending male harassment, nor going on any hunger or salt strike, the film plays out clearly that women have no other choice but to ACT on and of their own to stop violence. and although one police officer supports change for women in the film, most officers and other men in those societies scoff at harassment, as we’ve been reading in indian news since the death of the delhi girl who was gang raped last december.
cairo 678 is a refreshing agent of change and empowerment for women too ashamed to report such crimes. and because women aren’t taken seriously, and have had enough, they take up arms to stop harassment on their own. they want an end to being a victim, an end to falling prey to silence.
see interview with diab: http://www.cool-ny.com/en/archives/811
and for those of you who can read french see http://oumma.com/15574/egypte-femmes-descendre-hommes-metro