Sunday, November 16, 2008

Taxis in Egypt and in Palestine

Are the old Cairene taxis due to disappear? According to the new regulation, cars over 20 years will not be used for taxi cabs anymore and new authorisations will not be delivered to cars over ten years. Before long, the eternal Nasr 1300 should not be seen in Cairo streets.

In Khaled Al Khamissi’s view, the author of the unexpected best-seller Taxi, it would also be the end for the typical “osta”, the classical local taxi driver. Around 100.000 copies of his little book, largely written in colloquial Egyptian arabic (and translated into English, Italian and very soon French), have been sold, probably as much as there are taxicabs in the streets of the capital of Egypt! An indication, according to the writer, of the new cultural climate made possible by the absolute failure of the actual regime.

Less famous abroad than film directors like Michel Khleifi (Wedding in Galilee, 1987) and Elia Suleiman (Divine Intervention, 2002), Rashid Mashharawi (رشيد المشهراوي), born in Gaza in 1962, has just finished Laila's Birthday, the story of a juge obliged to work as a cab driver but still fighting in order to enforce the law on his fellow citizens in a country tore to pieces by the Israeli occupation.

Mohammed Bakri, probably the more praised Palestinian actor, plays the main character who compels his clients to fasten their seatbelt in a taxi with a sticker on the windshield which says: Forbidden to people bearing arms!

Things are changing, and artworks are not anymore the narrow-minded expression of an ideology. For those two Arab writer and film maker, the taxi is thus a way to stay in line with a definition of art which commands the artist to be a careful commentator of the social reality, but paying attention not to the great historical narratives but to the many little stories of everyday life.

Here is Laila's Birthday trailer and as usual, the link to the more developed post in French.

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