'Jews of Egypt' Rides Bumpy Road to Premiere

After Ban, Authorities Allow Screening of Controversial Film

Back Down: After Egypt tried to ban ‘Jews of Egypt,’ filmmaker Amir Ramses planned to sue — and project the film on the side of the country’s internal spy agency. That turned out to be unnecessary when authorities backed down and allowed screenings to go ahead.
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Back Down: After Egypt tried to ban ‘Jews of Egypt,’ filmmaker Amir Ramses planned to sue — and project the film on the side of the country’s internal spy agency. That turned out to be unnecessary when authorities backed down and allowed screenings to go ahead.

By Aaron Ross

Published March 28, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
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“It’s even beyond censorship this time,” said Ramses. “What used to happen during the ex-regime was that… they would never officially say to you that the film was banned by national security and definitely not after you got the permit. They would do this in secret even before they give you the permit.”

As a self-described secular advocate of religious tolerance, Ramses is alarmed by the current government’s course. He says the Brotherhood has not reconciled itself to divergent points of view from other Muslims, let alone from those of other faiths.

“How are you treating diversity in Egypt already?” Ramses said. “How are you handling even Muslims who think differently than the regime? You can’t even start talking about the Jews until you talk about Muslims who don’t share your convictions in the first place.”

Morsi and other prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been harshly condemned for comments they have made about Jews and Israel. In a video that surfaced in January of a speech from 2010, Morsi called on Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” He went on to describe Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Amid a firestorm of criticism from Western governments, Morsi did walk back his remarks, insisting that they had been taken out of context.

Yet Ramses hesitated to pin blame for his film’s travails on Morsi or the Brotherhood, given the apparent role of Egypt’s national security agency in its censorship. Indeed, Morsi’s own relationship with Egypt’s military and security forces remains extremely tense.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a far-fetched possibility,” Ramses said when asked about Morsi’s responsibility. “But I wouldn’t say it’s 100%.”

Whoever bore that responsibility, Ramses credited the government’s about-face on his film to “media pressure” generated by the vocal protests he and his colleagues raised. Thanks to that response, he said, “I have an official document stating that I can screen it for 10 years.”

Contact Aaron Ross at feedback@forward.com


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