Monday, May 14, 2007

Kiss Me Not On The Eyes ...........

Kiss me not on The Eyes ,
A Kiss on the eyes, tears lovers apart ......

The English title of the movie " Kiss me not on the Eyes " derives from an old song lyric by Abdul Wahaab ,and the Arabic title is " Duniya " - which in Arabic , Hindi, Urdu and Bengali means "The World" - and this movie by director Jocelyne Saab was absolutely tantalizing and riveting at the same time . It is an Egyptian/Lebanese/French production and has been very craftfully put together .

I saw this movie last year at the Arab Film Festival in San Francisco - when I had just met T - and this was one of our very first movies together . And it left me with a lingering feeling of having witnessed something beautiful and thought-provoking at the same time.

The film centers around Duniya , a character deftly played with all its sensousness by the beautiful Hanan Turk , a girl who is just discovering her sensuality and womanhood in a repressed society where girls are supposed to adhere strictly to certain rules and mind certain boundaries. Duniya decides to break the taboos society imposed on her and takes up belly-dancing in dance school and erotic poetry as her study-subject for research at the university. Knowing that her mother was never accepted in her father's family because of her past history as a belly-dancer , she defiantly takes up this form of dancing and discovers the pleasure of her body and movement . Her professor , played by Mohamed Mounir ( a well-known Arabic singer in real life), takes her on a journey of the long history of eroticism in arabic literature - and the world of sensuality in the depths of the words in arabic love poems comes to life for her . Duniya's boyfriend eyes her emancipation with suspicion and tries to bring her back into the molds of the so-called moral society , threatening to end the relationship - and they get married. But now, Duniya is liberated , free from the shackles of age-old Egyptian customs where the desires of a woman is viewed as immoral, her defiance unacceptable. She decides to leave and writes her farewell letter on her wedding dress.

The entire movie is a poetry in motion. Punctuated with lines and lyrics of love poems and a rhythmic soundtrack - Duniya is captivating. Hanan Turk, with her eyes, form, and beauty sizzles subtly throughout the movie - like a gazelle breezing through the landscape of the Serengeti , like a swan rippling through the shimmering waters and taking flight in spreading wings ! It took Jocelyne Saab more than six years to make this movie , and the idea came to her when she was overseeing an University research into sexual tendencies of Egyptian youth and one of her assistants walked out saying the study violates her religious sensitivities.Then the producers bailed out a week after outdoor shooting was over , and then came the protracted battle with Egyptian censors.

Jocelyne Saab started as a documentary filmmaker - she contends that films have too much dialogue and story telling in them . She would rather have shots tell the story. Duniya comes off as a series of collages revolving around the main character Duniya , and the entire movie makes an impresion of an artwork-on-canvas effect. The film also touches the issue of the politically autocratic regime in Egypt ( when the professor is threatened and then picked up by security forces ), the religious fanatism fanned through in the name of morality ( when the professor is attacked and his eyes taken out ) and lastly the practice of female circumcision ( when Duniya's cousin is forcibly circumcised and she tries to rescue her ).

Duniya makes an impression - it makes you reach for your inner senses - and it leaves an undeliable etching on your memory - whether this was the effect of the movie totally or this was partially to be blamed on the fact that I was holding the hands of a vivacious nigerian beauty while watching the movie - now, thats a slightly debatable question.