I've never been particularly fond of Arabic cinema. Growing up spoiled by Hollywood film standards, everything in Arabic movies seemed like it was lacking. The plots were thin and predictable, the camera work was poor, and the film quality was reminiscent of American films in the 1970s. There were always some good individual actors here and there, but very few directors who could pull together a whole cast and crew and create something truly inspiring.
And then I saw Heena Maysara, the film by Egyptian director Khaled Youssef that was recently released in the UAE. Translated as "Waiting for Better Times," the movie surpassed all the expectations I had of Arabic cinema. It covered real life in Egypt; showing the extreme poverty and abuse that plagued the lowest classes, government corruption, and the growth of terrorism within the country. The acting could have been better at certain moments and the final scene felt a little flat, but otherwise, the film was superb. No glitz and glamour, no Disney happily-ever-after. Just real, raw life.
The film generated a huge controversy, particularly for its sexual content, with a scene that hinted at lesbianism causing an uproar. Religious leaders at Al Azhar decried the film, calling for the director, as well as the two actresses in the "lesbian" scene, to be prosecuted.
Regardless of what authorities said about its sexual content, Heena Maysara was seen by nearly everyone with access to a movie theater in Egypt and the Arab world. They were drawn to the political and social realities the film reflected, not just the sex that the Al Azhar scholars have focused on.
I strongly encourage people to watch this film. It really changes the way you view Egypt, and with it the Arab world. It's one of those rare cinematic works that creates empathy between the viewer and Arabs, not sympathy or animosity.
I googled the trailer for you guys. (Sorry, but I couldn't find anything with English subtitles.) Check it out, and if you like it, go watch it now!