Sunday, March 31, 2002
Cairo, Egypt Renowned Egyptian director Salah Abou Seif tried for nearly three decades to get his country's censors to OK a script about sexual compatibility, frigidity, female genital mutilation, masturbation and prostitution.
Released to Egyptian audiences this year, six years after his death, the movie that grew out of that script has won praise from critics who said a story once too hot to handle was made into "a decent film about sex."
After Abou Seif died in 1996, his son, Mohammed Abou Seif took up the cause of "Sex School," submitting the script to the government when a new censor was appointed. Last year, he found a censor who believed Egypt was ready.
With the official permission needed for any filming in Egypt, the son shot his father's movie.
Mohammed Abou Seif said he closely followed the "Sex School" script, including directing notes made by his father. He made only one change: The title became "The Ostrich and the Peacock."
He persevered, he said, "because I knew how important it was for my father, and because it has been banned for no good reason."
The elder Abou Seif thought that the script, based on his own idea and written in 1971 by Lenin el-Ramly, could help save marriages by increasing understanding about sex, his son said.
The "Sex School" script was first rejected in 1971 in what was a more liberal and secular Egypt. The younger Abou Seif believes that now, with the rise of religious conservatism, the government allowed the movie to be made because it wants to encourage an opposite liberal trend.
The movie sees men as peacocks, strutting into their first sexual encounters, often with prostitutes, and full of misconceptions about sex and love. The shy ostrich is the woman, Samira, who cannot respond sexually to her husband, Hamdy, because she was mutilated as a child.
The movie won three prizes at Egypt's Alexandria International Film Festival last year ï¿½ best story, best music and best new actress for Basma, who played Samira.
In his half-century career, the elder Abou Seif, a pioneer of realism in Egyptian cinema, directed 45 movies, many of them now considered classics.