The history of the kiss in Egyptian cinema is, if anything, curious. It was common to see couples on screen locked in a dramatic lover’s embrace or an innocent peck in the black and white films of the 40’s and 50’s – even in the 80’s there was a whole barrage of kitsch, cult classic Egyptian films that showed daring kissing scenes… but today it’s unheard of.
Why is something so simple such a point of conversation? The kiss has been the savour of princesses in fairy tales, the reason of death in others the happy ending in many. How can something that feels natural and be part of life also be viewed as common and vulgar enough to be an indicator of something dark, sinister and immoral? Although Egyptian cinema has no problems showing platonic kisses as soon as real intimacy might be depicted the kiss, can’t exist.
This is the case that’s presented in Ahmed Amer’s brilliant mockumentary Kiss Me Not. The film follows a popular Egyptian actress, Fajir known for her risky roles and sex pot persona. But while shooting a new film with an up and coming talented young director she gets a spiritual awakening and decides to follow a more religious path in life. With one scene left to shoot, the final kissing scene between her and her onscreen husband, Fajir abandons the film and decides to wear the hijab. While the media, investors and her fan base all have a say and opinion as the story makes headlines, the young director is desperately trying to convince Fajir and to, at least, finish his film – the final kissing scene.
Kiss Me Not is funny, light but with serious undertones on how different sects of society and the Egyptian movie industry deal and view the issue of intimacy on the screen and what that says about society in general. That’s a lot to pack in a film but the best part about the script and in fact the performances is that not for a minute does the audience feel as though they are being educated or pushed to a specific point of view. In fact, many points of voice are presented in a balanced an humours way.
Written and directed by Ahmed Amer, Kiss Me Not is his first feature film after years of working as a professional screenwriter where some of his credits include working as an Arabic script consultant for the film Looking for Umm Kulthum by director and artist Shirin Nashat. The Arab Edition had a chat with Amer about how his first film, how Arabs view humour and why a kiss is such a big deal.