Tuesday, August 21, 2007

THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING




Also know as: Omaret Yacoubian
Drama
In Arabic with English subtitles

BACKGROUND
Erected in downtown Cairo in 1934, the Yacoubian apartment building was one of the largest, most luxurious edifices of its day. Over the years, however, the building fell into disrepair, and the rooftop dwellings that had been used as servants' quarters were rented out to the destitute and downtrodden. Thus the edifice named for its Armenian builder came to represent a cross-section of Egyptian society.

Pasha was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire, typically granted to governors and generals. Although the word now serves as a non-hereditary title, English speakers have commonly used Pasha as if it formed part of a personal name, as for instance in Zaki Pasha.

LE is the abbreviation for livre Ć©gyptienne, French for Egyptian pound. It is also referred to as EGP. Currently 100 EGP = US$17

A Copt is a native Egyptian Christian. Copts are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. According to ancient tradition, Saint Mark introduced Christianity to the Egyptians shortly after the ascension of Christ during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. Although integrated in the larger Egyptian nation, the Copts have survived as a distinct religious community forming today between 10 and 20 percent of the native population.

Upper Egypt is the narrow strip of land that extends from modern-day Aswan to the area just south of Cairo.

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Adel Imam: Zaki Pasha, a wealthy bachelor
Essad Youniss: his sister Dalawt
Khaled El Sawy: Hatem Rasheed, a newspaper editor
Nour El Sherif: Haj Azzam, wealthy owner of an upscale car dealership
Mohamed Imam: Taha El-Shazli, the son of the building’s janitor
Hind Sabry: his girlfriend Buthayna (or is it Bosnaina?)
Bassem Samra: a handsome young soldier
Yousra: Christine, French songstress in an upscale restaurant

REVIEW
The length of the movie (almost 3 hours) will no doubt be a deterrent to many considering going to see this wide-ranging view of secular life in modern-day Cairo. My guess is only those who are native to the country or have visited it (I’ve been twice so I guess I qualify on that count) would have the patience to hang in to the end, as there is no evidence of any attempt at serious editing.

Since the plot involves the lives of the building tenants, there’s always something happening so it jumps from one to another and like any good soap-opera, that keeps your interest high.

CLASSIFICATION
for some sexuality and violence.

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
The soldier is wearing a white T-shirt under his pyjamas but a few minutes later when he removes the top of his pj’s somehow the T-shirt has disappeared.

While Taha is being pursued he exits the park and bangs into a panel truck. The camera view shifts from outside to inside the truck and now he’s at least 10’ away from the truck.

When Zaki and Buthayna are returning one evening to his apartment, although it is quiet dark you can see the name of the building on the left-hand side over the entrance to be the Regent Hotel.

P.S.
Typically the streets of Cairo are teeming with people, cars, buses, trucks (even donkeys) as would be expected of a large metropolitan city with a population of some 16 million. Personally I’ve never seen a street in Cairo that has that “just washed look” . I think the producers have sanitised the city somewhat.

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