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The Yacoubian Building
The Yacoubian Building
Actors: Nour El Sherif, Ahmed Rateb, Yousra, Ahmed Bedir, Adel Imam
Director: Marwan Hamed
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Gay & Lesbian
UR     2008     2hr 45min

An eye-catching construction, the Yacoubian Building in Cairo was long regarded as the last word in comfort and elegance. Nowadays the veneer has cracked and the shine has dulled to reveal the truth underneath the fašade. ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Nour El Sherif, Ahmed Rateb, Yousra, Ahmed Bedir, Adel Imam
Director: Marwan Hamed
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Gay & Lesbian
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Gay & Lesbian
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 45min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Arabic
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Rare Look at Egypt
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 01/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Yacoubian Building"

A Rare Look at Egypt

Amos Lassen

We don't get a lot of movies from Egypt and "The Yacoubian Building" (Strand Releasing) manages to capture all of the dysfunctional elements of Egyptian society and while looking at some the taboos of the country manages to entertain the viewer. The problems of Egyptian society from prostitution to homosexuality and many other things that we would not expect to hear about because the Muslim religion labels them as taboo.
The movie is based on a book by Alaa el Aswani in which he tackles three of the sacred cows of society--religion, sex and politics and from I understand that the movie is faithful to the book. It takes a look at the secular world in an Islamic country and concentrates on the indulgence in alcohol, the corruption of politics, personal betrayals, and sexual promiscuity--issues that are not associated with or tolerated by the world of Islam.
The Yacoubian Building is Armenian owned and is located in the once elegant and restricted part of Cairo which was once home to the rich and powerful. Not long after the revolution, the building began its decline and became a high rise slum.
The movie is set in the 1990's and we first meet "Zak Pasha", a playboy who has been kicked out of his family. He is the aristocrat of the building. His manservant, Fanous, is totally faithful to him. Pasha's sister, Dawlat, resents her brother because of his fun-loving ways. Hatem Rasheed is a gay editor who takes a handsome young soldier, Abu, as his lover. Rasheed represents the discomfort that most Egyptians have with homosexuality. He prefers dark, black men because they cause him to remember an early experience he had once with a servant to his family.
Haj Assan, a self-made millionaire, has political ambitions and wants to get into the People's Assembly because he knows that it will cause the doors of power to open for him. He marries a poor young widow and forces her to have an abortion. The purpose of his character seems to be to show the difference of the "noveau riche" to the true aristocrat. Then there are Coptic Christian brothers who save every penny they make, legally or illegally, to be able to afford a room on the roof of the building.
On the roof of the building are Taha, a doorkeeper/concierge and Buthnaya, his girlfriend. After having been turned down by the Police Academy because of social inadequacy, he majors in political science. He becomes sympathetic to the university religious fanatics and evolves into an Islamic fundamentalist. This causes his girlfriend to leave him and she goes to work for Zaki. She had, before this, been the victim of sexual harassment. These two characters show how the young men are prey to religious extremism and the young women are victims of sexual exploitation. Taha ends up going to jail where he is forced to give up his religious beliefs but to get revenge, he trains as a terrorist.
The film draws a picture of Egyptian society and it is a rather sad picture at that. We have a black drama full of cultural and political symbolism if we take the Yacoubian building to be a symbol of Egypt itself. As the building was transformed from the 1940's so was Egyptian society and that now Egypt has a very clear set of double standards which affect everyone. Each of the stories presented in the film involves controversial characters who are linked only by the building in some way. The different stories are artistically interwoven in order to shed light on issues which are non acceptable in an Islamic society--homosexuality, prostitution, political corruption and Muslim fundamentalism.
This is not, by any means, a happy movie. It deals with deterioration and negative issues. The cinematography is brilliant and the music is wonderful.
Faithful to the excellent book
Timothy E. Drake | Chicago | 02/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Two summers ago while I was binge reading international literature I was led to a book titled The Yacoubian Building by Alaa el-Aswany, an Egyptian dentist. Written in Arabic in 2002, with an English translation in 2004, it is an incredible book. It is set in Cairo in the early 1990's. My initial interest was that it was reported to be the first Egyptian best-seller with a gay main character, and even a gay bar. It is so much more.

Last night (2/16/2008) I watched the movie version of the book, now available with English subtitles. They did a remarkable job of faithfully bringing this vast and complicated story to screen.

The character Taha, led to fundamentalist extremism by the corruption and despair of the day, should be of most interest to an American audience, his movie portrayal being neither harsh, nor sympathetic, just a representation of a generation, as a defining statement of fact.

The characters of Zaki and Haj serve to put the story into a historical perspective that is unknown to most in the West, yet with a plotline of political corruption that should be universally recognized by any student of history.

There are several main characters who are women, reflecting the entire spectrum of personal emancipation. Yet, I could not begin to analyze the story from a feminist perspective; there is just too much material there for me to digest.

My one and only criticism of the movie is its portrayal of the gay character, Hatim Rasheed, a newspaper editor. Apparently, to not make the movie even longer than it is, developing the Hatim role is shortchanged to give viewers only the sensational, an error not made in el-Aswany's book.

That said, the book and the movie should be on the reading list for those of us confused and anguished by the Islamic world - it is not an answer, but it partial explanation.
Raihin fen ?Were are we heading?
Nadia Azumi | 09/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I purchased this film with apprehension, upon request of many of my friends to see it.I am an Italian born in that era of post Nasser ism,and decided to follow the advise of my friends.
At first I thought it was going to be a boring movie, with some vulgarities.Moving along with the film I began to see issues that have never been seen in the Egypt that I lived.I left Egypt in 1974.Homosexuality,and other issues of this film were taboo in those days.It seems no more,which I think it is better than being in the closet.
The religious fanaticism was something that I never saw as clear as in this movie.I am a Catholic therefore going to the mosque was not something I did.It is very interesting as to how they recruit young people.Very smart,searching for those people who have been let down by society.
The old Pasha days are gone of course.The cleanliness of the country,the freedom,the society itself.And yet with all that is said and done Egyptian people are very kind hearted and friendly.The movie also tells the story of a young sales girl what she has to do to get a couple of pounds extra.That I am not sure it is true, but it could be.People are struggling all across the country until today.If you want to follow more as to what is going on in Egypt read the El Ahram newspaper online.I enjoyed seeing this movie very much as many of us born in Egypt and leaving overseas rekindle the days that were,and will never come again."
Modern Egyptian life
George W. Lynn | 04/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you have any interest in modern Egyptian or Middle Eastern culture, you really should see this film if you haven't already. The movie is based on the best selling novel of the same name published in Egypt several years earlier. The residents of the Yacoubian building are intended to be a microcosm of modern Egyptian society and covers most of the significant themes and problems in Egyptian life today, with a profound sense of nostalgia for the more cosmopolitan Cairo of pre-Nasser Egypt. Many of these themes are highly controversial, such as homosexuality, and couldn't even be mentioned in most other Middle Eastern countries. One of the main characters falls into the arms of radical Islam out of utter dispair. You'll get a much better understanding of that here than you'll ever get from Syriana. The acting is top notch.