The programme covers prominent Egyptian filmmakers like Mariam Abou Ouf, Marianne Khoury and Mayye Zayed.
The latest episode of CNN’s Inside the Middle East turns the lens on some prominent female Egyptian filmmakers, who have helped drive the industry forward.
Mariam Abou Ouf, one of Egypt’s acclaimed film directors, has more than 20 years in the industry. She spoke to CNN about the importance of collaborating with other women to bring different perspectives to TV and film: “I think in general, women and filmmakers, they have to work more to prove themselves. So, in the end, what you get is better filmmakers, better writers, better actors, simply because we need to work much harder to get to where our male colleagues are.”
Documentary filmmaker Marianne Khoury also commented on the impact of women working together: “I think it’s extremely important to collaborate, it gets much better results because you have all these energies coming together to produce something together this is much stronger than just one person working alone.”
Women have played a pivotal role in the Egyptian film industry for some time but in the 1920s when the industry was new there was stigma attached to the career.
Khoury points out that any role in the artistic fields “was taboo” back then.
If rich men fell in love with dancers or artists, “they would never say in public that they married them”, she stated, adding that “women were … the real pioneers in Egyptian cinema.”
Yousra, a household favourite, who has been in the business for 50 years, is also part of the programme. She credits her success to the legendary women who came before her and says she hopes to pay it forward to emerging talent: “As much as they, the old legends and stars have helped me in my life, I owe it to the new generations. 80% of the new generation that worked with me, I played even a tiny role in their lives which is important.”
CNN also met with filmmaker Mayye Zayed who uses her film to create social change. Zayed produced ‘Lift Like a Girl,’ which features Asmaa ‘Zebiba’ Abbary, a young Egyptian girl, aspiring to become a professional weightlifter. The film won several awards and was the first Egyptian documentary to be released on Netflix. Following its release, Mayye started an impact campaign for children that reflects the issues and topics highlighted in the documentary. She stated: “We do not just screen the film and just leave. We organise these workshops to inspire them to pursue their own dreams, but at the same time to raise awareness about gender equity, to discuss problems like gender bias, basically to tackle all the themes that we see in the film.”
Speaking about some phrases in reference to women, Zayed said: “We have sometimes these phrases that are so embedded in the culture; for example, if you want to say that a woman is good, you tell her, um, that she’s like a man. So we have designed some activities to explore these themes with kids and to have them think of other phrases they can use, or adults can use.”
She continued: “I wanted to tell this story in a way that it can inspire… especially children to pursue their own dreams, but at the same time to break stereotypes about women, especially in Egypt.”