In 2011 the Legatum Institute published its ‘Prosperity Index’ assessing 110 countries, defining prosperity as both wealth and well being. Under the category of Personal Freedom, Egypt ranked 109th out of 110 countries indicating the limits on citizen’s freedom of expression. The miracle of the revolution has reversed the situation with Egyptians hitting the streets on a nationwide scale demanding justice and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. With the presidential election approaching, filmmaker Nadia Kamel discussed in Brussels the deep roots of the Arab Spring and the current situation in Egypt.
Nadia Kamel worked as an assistant director to leading independent filmmakers in contemporary Egypt such as Youssef Chahine and Yousri Nassrallah before going solo and shooting her first documentary. “Salata Baladi” (An Egyptian Salad) was released in 2007 – pre-revolution Egypt- and reveals the story of a family, a country, and the repercussions that politics had on the destiny of both.
The documentary screened in the framework of the Millenium International Documentary Film Festival tells the story of Nadia’s mother, Mary Rosenthal ; a remarkable, multi ethnic woman. She is in fact part Jewish, part Christian, part Muslim, with Italian and Arab origins. Mary turns into a storyteller, narrating episodes related to her life to her nephew and daughter, opening a window on Egypt’s history and society.
Like her husband, Mary joined the ranks of the Egyptian communist opposition; a conviction that forced her to truncate ties with her Jewish relatives who had settled in Israel. As Mary decides to renew family ties, Nadia Kamel takes the audience on a journey to Egypt, Italy and Israel.
“Salata Baladi” is a testimonial of courage, a tale of individuals who decided to go beyond social norms, challenging society and themselves in the name of (r)evolution. In 2007, Nadia Kamel’s membership in the filmmaker’s union was suspended. She was supported by journalists and countrymen who she believes “protected the courage”. The courage of expressing an opinion, of crossing the line, and of reclaiming her rights. She freed a family from the straitjacket of taboos and an entire country from the oppression of a dictator. According to Nadia Kamel in Egypt “the revolution is still there”, in this transitional phase everyone is waiting for the results of the presidential elections.