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Sleeping in Lullaby Honey

The sudden impotence of all the men in Cairo becomes a hot political issue in Sherif Arafa's overlong but initially quite amusing satire "Sleeping in Lullaby Honey." Arafa gets a lot of mileage from pic's surreal sexual premise, until film runs out of steam in its second half and becomes too repetitious for most Western palates. It should nevertheless get fest airings thanks to its originality and overt political stance.

The sudden impotence of all the men in Cairo becomes a hot political issue in Sherif Arafa’s overlong but initially quite amusing satire “Sleeping in Lullaby Honey.” Arafa gets a lot of mileage from pic’s surreal sexual premise, until film runs out of steam in its second half and becomes too repetitious for most Western palates. It should nevertheless get fest airings thanks to its originality and overt political stance.

After teaming up in “Terrorism and Kebab” and the recent “Birds of Darkness,” director Arafa and top Egyptian comedy star Adel Imam became the targets of fanatical religious groups who protested the pic’s stand against Islamic fundamentalism. Their current film has set off new controversy.

Magdi (Imam) heads criminal investigations at Cairo police HQ. When a young bridegroom commits suicide on his wedding night and a macho type kills his wife on the same night that hundreds of couples inexplicably beat each other up, Magdi knows he’s faced with a widespread disaster. Much to his wife’s dismay, he too soon becomes a victim of the wave of impotence sweeping the city’s males.

While officials attempt a coverup, Magdi and a pretty journalist persevere in their “investigations.” They find men lining up to buy potions from quacks and women complaining bitterly in the public baths. But no one is willing to sign a statement attesting to their inability to have sex, and the country’s leaders refuse to acknowledge the catastrophe. In a rousing finale, Magdi leads the people of Cairo to Parliament to raise their voices.

Though pic’s pro-sex message seems designed to outrage fundamentalists, its attack broadens to include Arab machismo, the abysmal quality of life in Cairo, a government hiding its head in the sand and citizens who keep quiet when they should be strenuously protesting. The film, which clearly is aimed at local auds , spells out its message and underlines every point several times.

Thanks to Imam’s comic appeal, film is sugared with several top-notch scenes, including one in which the detective and his wife try to recover his lost manhood in the middle of the desert, only to be interrupted by mounted cops on camels. Pic abounds in local color, and is much better lensed (by d.p. Mohsen Ahmed) than most Egyptian pics. Omar Khayrat’s music is well used.

Sleeping in Lullaby Honey

(AL NOM FIL ASSAL)

Production: (EGYPTIAN) A Wahid Hamed Films production. Produced by Wahid Hamed. Directed by Sherif Arafa. Screenplay, Hamed.

Crew: Camera (color), Mohsen Ahmed; editor, Adel Mounir; music, Omar Khayrat; art direction, Rohsdi Hamed. Reviewed at Inverso Sud Festival, Aversa, Italy, June 1, 1996. Running time: 119 MIN.

With: With: Adel Imam, Dalal Abdel Aziz, Sheirne Seif El-Nasr, Nazim Shaarawi, Mohamed El-Dafrawi.

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