The Yacoubian Building in Cairo is still an eye-catching construction. Built in 1934 and named after the leader of the Armenian community, it was long regarded as the last word in comfort and elegance. Loosely based on a highly popular novel by Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswani, this film portrays episodes in the lives of the people who live here.
One of the building’s inhabitants is the aristocratic Zaki El Dessouki. A playboy for whom women are still his great weakness, the elderly man now holds his trysts in cheap bars. One of his assignations is his neighbour, Bothayna, a young girl from a poor background. Obliged to mess around with the owner of the shop where she works in order to feed her family, she even has to sacrifice the love of her life, Taha El Shazly, the son of the doorman at the Yacoubian Building, who ends their relationship on the spot.
When his dream of attending the police academy is thwarted for financial reasons he decides instead to join a religious group. Among the building’s other inhabitants are Fanous and Malak who live in a corrugated iron hut on the roof, and Soad, who is kept by a rich patron. One other tenant is a journalist named Hatem, who is the son of a well-known lawyer. He falls in love with a soldier and makes use of his financial straits to seduce him. These artistically interwoven stories of a number of individuals also provide a vibrant but socially critical picture of contemporary Egyptian history. –Berlinale
Hamed was born in Cairo in 1977 to a Muslim Egyptian family. His father, screenwriter Wahid Hamed, remains a prominent figure in Egyptian filmmaking, best known for his controversial screenplays addressing terrorism, corruption, impotence, and national unity. After first working in commercials, Marwan Hamed directed several short films such as Au Bout du Monde (1998), Cheik Cheikha (1999), and Lily (2001), for which he won the public prize at the Glermont-Ferrand short film festival in 2001. Imarat Ya’qubian is considered Hamed’s most important film yet and has been a subject for debate among Egyptians. After premiering at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2006, it opened in Egypt in June of the same year.
Hamed has been deeply influenced by his family traditions. His father, Wahid Hamed, whose Ramadan television series routinely launch public debates, adapted the book Imarat Ya’qubian as a screenplay for his son to direct. While such nepotism has aided Hamed in his career… read more
The most daring and confronting Egyptian film I have seen (apart from 1971's Adrift on the Nile). To see homosexuality depicted (somewhat) sympathetically in a film starring some of Egypt's most famous stars was a revelation. This film, and the book it was based on, were hugely successful in Egypt. I am quite amazed that neither were banned - perhaps a glimmer of hope that society there is opening up a little?