Films are an escape for a couple of hours. Although the genre may differ from one film to the other, it is not uncommon to seek solace and to detach from reality for a while through losing yourself in the screen. However, sometimes films are used to open our eyes to several societal issues that are not often talked about, to give us an idea of what they mean and where they stand. Social taboos are explored in both Arabic and English films, but they are less common in Arabic ones given the strong moderation and sensory of films that address culturally sensitive issues. Social taboos include discussing sexuality and mental health, whether being homosexual or having a psychological disorder. Marriage and marital expectations are also huge topics of debate within our community and culture. A couple of films explore the social taboos related to the married life.
1- Family Secrets (Asrar 3alaya)
‘Family Secrets’ (Asrar 3alaya) is the first Egyptian film to tackle the idea of homosexuality. The film explores the story of Marwan, a young man and we see that he visits five psychiatrists to try to “cure” himself from a disease: his homosexuality. The film demonstrates how the society views any individual, who deem themselves homosexual, as a person with a mental problem. Although there are no explicit scenes, the moderation had asked the director to cut thirteen minutes from the film’s runtime. The director then argued that “His relationship will seem like a heterosexual relationship.” and “It’ll mess up the film. You won’t be able to understand the psychological dilemma of the character, or his relationship with others.”
2- Teenage Diaries (Mozakerate Morahka)
‘Teenage Diaries’ (Mozakerat Morahka) tells the story of a couple’s relationship and its boundaries before marriage. The idea of kissing or having intercourse before marriage is forbidden on many levels. Moreover, the movie brings up and stresses the idea that a female must be a virgin until she gets married or she and her family will be shamed, disrespected and she might even be disowned by her father.
3- ‘Girls’ Secrets’ (Asrar el Banat)
Another film that deals with marriage and teenagers is ‘Girls’ Secrets’ (Asrar el Banat). When a sixteen-year-old girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, it sparks all kinds of tension. Some of the questions raised are about how to block out the unwanted influences of the Western world, given that the premarital sex is not uncommon abroad. Another question is should sexual intercourse be taught in schools? Should teenage girls and boys socialize or should they be segregated in order to cut down the risk of premarital intercourse?
These are all films which deal with very real issues, and will hopefully open people’s eyes to what is happening around us and spark ideas on how to deal with it.