Hollywood starlet Salma Hayek will be taking center stage in Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Nabil's latest project, playing a belly dancer.
In a country that’s losing freedom daily - yes that’s Egypt - there are many forms of art and media that are in decomposition and deterioration, from theater and cinema, to the censored journalism and literary works. It seems like the downhill of intellectual exchange is inevitable and no loner in demand by the audience or the masses and therefore is no longer in production. One of the many art forms that are being attacked, especially with the recent religious fundamentalist breakout is the art of belly dancing.
One estranged New-York-based Egyptian filmmaker isn’t going to let it go without a proper farewell to his homeland and that art which he grew to love. Youssef Nabil always had a knack for the nostalgic in his line of work, something reminiscent of a time that’s gone. And this time his eyes are set on belly dancing, the recently diminished art form is being grieved and celebrated in his latest 12 minute short film I Saved My Belly Dancer, which stars Hollywood starlet and a favourite among Egyptians, Salma Hayek, who performs one last dance on the shores of an Egyptian coast, before being whisked away into the sunset on a horse in true Hollywood cinema style.
Of his choice for the role, Nabil says, "I saw an Egyptian in Salma, although she’s Mexican with Arab blood. She has been collecting my work with her husband and the Pinault Foundation. I had drawn the storyboard for I Saved My Belly Dancer with her face and we met two years ago. She has also never played an Arab role and I guess I put her in touch with her origins."
The film will feature in Dubai’s The Third Line gallery in January, alongside 26 hand-painted images based on its narrative. The film is in its last stages of post-production at Ridley Scott’s London based production company RSA - they moved shooting to the UK city after it became too difficult to shoot in Egypt. Featuring a time in Egypt that no longer exists, the film serves not only as a love letter but an invitation to remember, keep, hold dear and cherish a time in our past, which no longer exists.