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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Review-Looking for Oum Kulthum

Looking for Oum Kulthum - Director Shirin Neshat was wearing earrings similar to those in my portrait of Oum Kultum. Next to her stands the starring actress, Neda Rahmanian, who played the Iranian director Mitra in this film about the struggles of a non-Arabic speaking woman making a film about Oum Kulturm, the legendary first female Egyptian singer, who broke the gender ban.
When speaking about this strikingly beautiful film surrounded by her film team, Neshat, who years before had displayed her video installations in Hamburg’s Kunsthalle, had much to say about LOOKING FOR OUM KULTHUM: “I am really looking for myself.”
“I like your fire, (directed to audience); it includes failure, a part of artistic struggle. Inception and payoff do not always work dependently.”
“When the film began, the first three years were spent making a Kulthum biopic. Then (we) changed directions. It was impossible to get her (Kulthum’s) essence. She had wanted to be an image.”
“She (Kulthum) wrote a five-page biography of her childhood, that’s all!” (speaking on the dearth of information on the diva’s life.)
“We made many trips to Egypt.”
“The force of nature was represented by the ocean.”
“Different audience, different artwork. Every artist has a license to grow.”
“We are here to grow as artists. Isn’t failure part of the artists’ endeavor? “
“I make videos that have no narrative demands. Isn’t that what it takes to be great?”
“I really did not go there with this film,” when asked if Oum Kulthum consumed a lot of drugs.

Oum Kulthum was incredibly popular. Her music spoke out about the hardships of war and injustices suffered. Over four million people poured into the streets; in Cairo alone two million mourned her death February 4, 1975. Mourners grabbed her body from the pallbearers and passed it for hours over their heads through the city. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA2lZ8YRY8c) Mara Nagy was her singing voice in the film. Beyoncé uses ‘Enta Omri” one of Kulthum’s greatest hit songs in her “Naughty Girl” sequence on tour in 2016. (NT)

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