Hamed, Marwan (1977–)

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Hamed, Marwan

Marwan Hamed is a young Egyptian filmmaker best known for his unflinching portrayal of private lives in modern-day Egypt. After receiving his degree from the Cairo Film Institute in 1999 he apprenticed as assistant director to many outstanding Egyptian filmmakers such as Sherif Arafa, Samir Seif, and Khairy Beshara. Initially he built his reputation directing commercials. His first big-screen film, Lily, won prizes at Carthage and other festivals. Critics consider his most important film to date to be Imarat Ya'qubian (2006, The Yacoubian Building), which was chosen as one of the hundred most important Egyptian films by a committee headed by the veteran critic Amed El-Hadari.


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.


Name: Marwan Hamed

Birth: 1977, Cairo, Egypt

Family: Single

Nationality: Egyptian

Education: Cairo Film Institute, 1999, Cairo


  • 2001: Makes big-screen debut with short film Lily
  • 2006: Releases Imarat Ya'qubian

The film is based on the best-selling novel Imarat Ya'qubian by Alaa El-Aswani, which has been translated into more than ten languages. One of the most controversial and expensive films in Egyptian cinema history, Imarat Ya'qubian focuses on the residents of a well-known Cairo apartment building. Following their personal experiences, Hamed exposes corruption at all levels of society, from the highest officers of government to a small shop owner asking sexual favors from the assistants he employs in return for their jobs. Other characters include a drug dealer who bribes a government minister to secure a seat in parliament so as to continue his illicit trade and the son of a doorman who turns to fundamentalism when refused entry to the police academy because of his social background.

Imarat Ya'qubian also features a gay character engaged in a relationship with a younger security policeman, thus giving ground to sharp criticism by many politicians who demanded several scenes be cut. Addressing these criticisms, Hamed stated that taboos needed to be addressed to make progress. He also stressed that critics have exaggerated the film's portrayal of homosexuality in order to draw attention away from its criticism of government corruption. Indeed, the gay character is also the editor of French-language newspaper and a self-appointed scourge of political corruption.


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, his own personal talent and ability to acutely observe and address the problems of modern Egyptian society are the true foundations of his success. Hamed's teachers at Cairo Graduate Film Institute, which has rich traditions of theory, practice, and research, also greatly influenced him. The technical knowledge Hamed received in this school paved a way to his success.

As the director of Imarat Ya'qubian, Hamed has contributed greatly to the realistic genre of filmmaking in Egypt, paving the way for future filmmakers to create similarly uncompromising portraits of the pains and problems within that country's society. Moreover, this film broke with the Egyptian film tradition of focusing on one main character only; the ensemble cast included many famous Egyptian actors such as Adel Imam, Nour El-Sherif, Yousra, Isaad Younis, Ahmed Bedeir, Hind Sabry, and Khaled El Sawy. It is widely believed that Hamed's films are perfect proof of his commitment to the art of screen.


Global perceptions of Hamed's films, especially Imarat Ya'qubian, are positive. In addressing his country's dramatic realities, Hamed is one of many international directors who have been regarded as human rights activists. His film Imarat Ya'qubian has become one of the most popular and most debated films in the history of Egypt, with critics, politicians, and ordinary people joining in the discussion. Members of the Egyptian parliament, most notably Mustafa Bakri, have led a censorship campaign against the film, arguing that it defames Egypt by portraying homosexuality, terrorism, and corruption. In fact, the film's criticism of government corruption is so overwhelming that it has been discussed in the nation's parliament. Throughout such controversies, Hamed has maintained that painful problems should be discussed openly by the public; only when individuals no longer deny the existence of corruption and strife will they then find solutions to those same social ills.


It is too early to evaluate Hamed's ultimate legacy, as he has produced only one feature film to date. However, this same film indicates that Hamed will continue to be a force within Egyptian film in the future.


Abou El-Magd, Nadia. "Walid Hamed: Time and Again." In Al-Ahram Weekly Online. 4-10 January 2001. Available from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/515/profile.htm.

Farid, Samir. "The Top 100." In Al-Ahram Weekly Online. 15-21 March 2007. Available from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/836/cu4.htm.

Mustafa, Hani. "Novel Drama." In Al-Ahram Weekly Online. 29 June-5 July 2006. Available from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2006/801/cu5.htm.

"Taboo-Smashing Film Breaks Egypt Records." BBC News. Updated 5 July 2006. Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5150216.stm.

Whitaker, Bob. "Call to Censor 'Immoral" Egypt Film." Updated 6 July 2006. Available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,1814229,00.html.

                                          Adil M. Asgarov