Monday, October 20, 2008


Egyptians are mad about movies, and the big stars of the Egyptian cinema are revered by the general public in the way that more rarefied circles in the West feel about Garbo, Davis, Gable, and Bogart.

They love the triumphs, and almost as much they revel masochistically in the tragedies. Just about the saddest of all of these is the story of Souad Hosni, remembered as "The Cinderella of Arabic Cinema."

Throught the 60s and into the 70s, she was the darling of moviegoers, a lively, gamine sort of girl given the Egyptian versions of the kinds of movies then going to Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn.

She made dozens of movies, some good and some pretty lamentable. One, Khali Balek min Zouzou (Beware of Zouzou) from the early 70s is credited with rescuing Egyptian movies from a rut of politicized, Soviet-style pictures (brawny peasants, noble workers, and not much fun - very not Egyptian).

By the early 80s, the movie industry in Egypt more or less fell apart, and the kinds of sweet, light films audiences loved her for gave way to low-budget action/comedy/romance/dirty joke movies. In 2001, half-forgotten, impoverished, and long ill and a recluse, Souad Hosni fell from the balcony of the London apartment building to which she had retreated.

Some say she jumped; others that mysterious Powers That Be pushed her (and stole the manuscript of her reputedly sensational memoirs). Her funeral was a day of mass public mourning in Cairo, and Egyptians still bitterly berate themselves for having let her down.

Years before all that, though, in 1979, Souad Hosni made a movie called El-Mutawahisha (The Wild Child). At 37, she's a little mature for the kind of romping about that the script calls for, but she's game.

Here, with the dubious help of some disturbing chorus boys, she leads a number called, as you'll soon see, Sheeka-Beeka.

It's fairly appalling. I suppose you could consider it the real-life Egyptian Shumba (it's almost that unnerving). Or maybe an Arabesque Sissy Clown Slap Party. Don't say you haven't been warned.


  1. I'd have pushed her off the balcony, too. And that orchestra with her. I don't know why I never pay attention to your warnings, they're always justified.

  2. It's the Sheeka Beeka Shumba.

    This will give me nightmares. Really.