Egypt's social media users are campaigning to reopen cinemas in the country's southern governorates that have radical views about religion and gender and consider art taboo. The campaign, titled #Eftaho_cinemat_el-Se'eed ...
Author: Menna A. Farouk Posted March 1, 2017
Egypt's social media users are campaigning to reopen cinemas in the country's southern governorates that have radical views about religion and gender and consider art taboo. The campaign, titled #Eftaho_cinemat_el-Se'eed (#Open_Upper_Egypt's_Cinemas), was launched this week on Facebook and garnered the support and likes of hundreds of users.
The founder of the campaign, Ayat Yassin, said she initiated the campaign after noticing that several cinemas in the Upper Egyptian governorates of Sohag and Assiut had been closed down. Yassin is from Sohag and is a regular visitor to Assiut.
"I thought that after some time they would be reopened. But they did not. So I decided to make this campaign go viral in order to raise awareness about the issue and push government officials to take action," Yassin, 25, told Al-Monitor.
Yassin said many Upper Egyptians are now resorting to traveling to Cairo or Alexandria to go to theaters to watch movies. She said the last time she went to the movies was in Cairo because the only cinema in her hometown, Cinema Opera, was closed and turned into a shopping mall a few years ago.
Yassin also said that some cinemas turned into meeting places for hash smokers as well as boys and girls engaging in immoral acts. Conservative families in Upper Egypt, Yassin added, stopped going there or sending their children, fearing stigma.
Mohamed Tarek, a resident in the southern governorate of Beni Suef, said the situation in his hometown is almost the same. "Beni Suef does not have any cinemas. It once had a cinema called el-Nasr and a summer cultural palace cinema, but they both were closed," Tarek told Al-Monitor.
Beni Suef, about 115 kilometers (71 miles) south of Cairo, has a population of 3.4 million people. "Many people travel to Cairo only to see a movie. It should not be like this. Moreover, the governorate is a very good opportunity for investors in the cinema industry because the audience is there and is a large one," he added.
Kariman Kamal, another resident in Sohag governorate, said that she had to take a vacation, book a train and rent a house in Cairo in order to watch a recent film called "Mawlana" ("The Preacher") in a Cairo cinema.
"When I was waiting at the cinema, I noticed a Cairo family of a father, a mother and three children. They have easily managed to gather, go to watch the movie and will go afterward back home. But for an Upper Egyptian family like ours, it is different. Is it not my right to take my father and mother for two hours, watch a movie and come back home? Is it that difficult?" Kamal, 25, wrote on her Facebook page.
The campaign focuses on reopening cinemas in the southern governorates of Aswan, Luxor, Fayoum, Qena, Sohag, Assiut, Minya and Beni Suef. According to the campaign's founder, several cinemas in Upper Egypt have been closed or demolished and turned into residential towers, supermarkets and shopping malls.
The campaign's data also show that there is only one cinema in Luxor, while there used to be 14 cinemas at the tourist attraction. There are now no cinemas in Qena, Assiut, Fayoum, Sohag and Beni Suef, although there used to be at least one cinema in these governorates. Meanwhile, there are only two cinemas in Minya, according to the campaign's data.
Sayed Fouad, the former head of the Luxor African Film Festival, told Al-Monitor that it is not just Upper Egypt that has a problem with closed cinemas. "The rest of the country has a problem too. It is one of the country's largest cultural catastrophes," he said.
Fouad added that the government has to invest more in the cultural sector because cinemas play a vital role in raising awareness about social and political issues and forming the culture of the people. "Cinemas and movies eliminate terrorism and extremism as well as disseminate tolerance, acceptance of the other and morals," he said.
Fouad urged the government to cooperate with the private sector companies and encouraged them to invest in the cinema industry in Egypt. "If it is given adequate attention, the cinema industry will make the government and the private sector huge profits. That is because the Egyptian people love cinema and art," he said.
"The lack of cinemas affects people's spirits and thoughts, exactly like music and other forms of art," said Yassin, the young founder of the ambitious campaign. "Cinemas are not a luxury. Their significance is as strong as eating and drinking. Cinemas are as important as any other services offered by the government to ordinary citizens," she added.
Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/upper-egypt-online-campaign-open-cinemas.html
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