Nadia Kamel: Salade Maison (Salata Baladi)

From Women Make Movies

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Egyptian filmmaker, Nadia Kamel was born in 1961 in Cairo, where she continues to live and work. The daughter of journalist parents with a long history of political activism, Kamel grew up in a house steeped in progressive politics and a passion for the arts and popular culture. She studied microbiology and chemistry before turning her full attention to her life-long romance with the cinema in 1990. Working as an assistant director to leading independent filmmakers in contemporary Egypt including Atteyat El-Abnoudy, Youssef Chahine and Yousri Nassrallah, Kamel has considerable experience in the making of both documentary and feature films. When Kamel first began to work on her own projects in 2000, she found that a saturated production scene left little space for new directors and unconventional topics. Eventually, she concluded that addressing the daring, often taboo topics, confined to the margins of conventional Egyptian discourse that she hoped to engage with in her projects, she would need to take the risk of producing her own low-budget films. SALATA BALADI (AN EGYPTIAN SALAD), her first film, has been produced in this spirit of indomitable independence. After nearly five years of working solo, she was joined by co-producers Films d’Ici and Ventura Films in the post-production of this family tale celebrating a century of Egyptian cosmopolitanism.

Director’s Note:
“It struck me that our history is contained in the homes we live in, that we are shaped by the ability of these simple structures to resist being defiled.” (Achmat Dangor, Kafka’s Curse)

The original inspiration for this film was simple enough: a love for my family’s stories and a wish to share them. It was a story telling project. The energy that eventually propelled me into this adventure was more complicated. I saw my octogenarian mother aging and my 10-year-old nephew growing up under a shadow of satellite dishes and a rising clamor about some inevitable clash of civilizations. And a mixture of hope and fear overtook me.

My mother’s stories, woven across the 20th century, confound any straightforward understanding of the historical events during which they were played out and are almost always an exception to the reductive homogeneity with which we are taught to view ‘History.’ In my family, religions and cultures get married when they appear to be divorcing in the global arena. In a world where my family’s identities are being squeezed into irreconcilable positions, I needed to document my history before I became apologetic about it and the myth of its extinction was realized.

But as my mother told her stories, I discovered that the film could not simply be a reclaiming of our treasured past: we found ourselves colliding with pockets of denial and silence. Without confronting the taboos of our present, my mother’s stories were reduced to self indulgence and nostalgia. And so my story telling film became a witness to a new story still in the making – a story about my family’s efforts to once more climb the wall that unjustly insists on separating our principles from our humanity.

Image: A panorama taken from the Judge’s Club in Cairo, showing the Nile as well as Geziera. The Sofitel and Grand Hyatt Hotels can be seen in the far right of the photograph. By JasmineEliasOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

#FiveSentenceFiction: Family

For Racheal

Mother and Child, Egon SchieleHe woke up, immersed in the low hum of the ship, secure and relaxed in the familiar cabin he shared with Anna: she was already up, probably busy in the kitchen.

It was his birthday: every earth-year Anna would prepare a surprise for him specially for that day, last year it was the hyperspace astrolabe, a marvel of exquisite art and navigation engineering skill: Anna, ever attentive and watchful, his dedicated and beautiful companion, so human in the small imperfections he’d learnt to admire.

The door opened, silently, and there she stood looking at him, her warm smile on the sensual lips: “Good morning my love, are you ready for a cup of coffee? Happy birthday!”

He paused and took Anna in his arms: then he saw the small boy, standing proudly at the door, holding a steaming pot of coffee: on the boy’s face he saw himself, through eons of time.

“You see, I did not forget what you said last year about not having a son with you on this long voyage… He’s so much like his dad!” said Anna, smiling the eternal woman’s and mother’s tenderness, Anna, the near-perfect human, the elite replicant, his lover in the immense solitude of space.

#AtoZChallenge2015: Family

Marc Chagall Paris LandscapeOne of the pleasures of the A to Z is, for me, to dive again in Raymond Williams’ Keywords, a source of inspiration and learning. The simplest words reveal their history, the meanings given to them in the past, by people like us, our older neighbours, perhaps our ancestors. On Family Williams wrote:

Family has an especially significant social history. It came into English in the 14-15th century, from Latin familia – household – and famulus – servant. The associated adjective familiar appears to be somewhat earlier in common use, and its range of meanings reminds us of the range of meanings which were predominant in family before the 17th century. There is the direct sense of the Latin household, either in the sense of a group of servants or a group of blood-relations and servants living together in one house. Familiar related to this, in phrases like familiar angel, familiar devil and the later noun familiar, where the sense is of being associated with or serving someone. There is also the common 15 and 16th century phrase familiar enemy, to indicate an enemy within one’s household, ‘within the gates’, and thence by extension an enemy within one’s own people. But the strongest early senses of familiar were those which are still current in modern English: on terms of friendship or intimate with someone (cf. ‘don’t be too familiar’); well known, well used to or habitual (cf. ‘familiar in his mouth as household words’, Henry V). These uses came from the experience of  people living together in a household, in close relations with each other and well used to each other’s way. They do not, and familiar still does not, relate to the sense of blood-group.

Family was then extended, from at least the 15th century, to describe not a household but what was significantly called a house, in the sense of a particular lineage or kin-group, ordinarily by descent from a common ancestor. This sense was extended to indicate a people or group of peoples, again with a sense of specific descent from an ancestor; also to a particular religious sense, itself associated with previous social meanings, as in ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named’ (Ephesians, 3:14, 15). Family in the Authorised Version of the Bible (1611) was restricted to these wide senses: either a large kin-group, often virtually equivalent to tribe (Genesis 10:5; 12:3; Jeremiah 1:15; 31:1; Ezekiel 20:32) or the kin-group of a common father: ‘and then shall he (a brother) depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return’ (Leviticus 25:41). The 16 and 17th century sect of the Family of Love or Familists is interesting in that it drew the sense of a large group, but made this open and voluntary through love.

In none of the pre-17th century senses, therefore, can we find the distinctive modern sense of a small group confined to immediate blood relations…”

Image: Marc Chagall Paris Landscape, 1978