W.C. Fields confounds ’em in Egypt

CAIRO — Brush up your English or find a new job, Egyptian film censors and translators are being told.

The warning comes after a U.S. pic’s reference to comedian W.C. Fields was translated as “toilet pastures,” leaving viewers who could follow only the Arabic subtitles wondering what in the world the characters were talking about.

In another American film, “the computer is down” was rendered in the Arabic subtitle as “the computer is in the basement.” Unfortunately, the scene made it clear that the computer in question was on an upper floor of a high-rise office building.

Though the subtitlers and censors were subjected to language exams before their hiring, Dr. Gaber al Asfour, undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture, has ordered retesting. Those not passing muster will be dismissed, al Asfour says.

In Egypt, foreign films screened in theaters or broadcast on TV are subtitled, not dubbed. And when it comes to cutting those pics, censors look for scenes of sex or violence to snip rather than obscene dialogue.

Thus when Michael Cimino’s Vietnam war epic “The Deer Hunter” was recently shown on Egypt’s national TV, the pic’s steady flow of vulgarities was left intact; only violent scenes were snipped. The movie’s swearing was either not translated, or else the words were bowdlerized. “Go f— yourself!” was rendered as “you’re not nice.”

The irony is that the “Deer Hunter” language that U.S. networks would bleep out was broadcast into households all over the country – even if much of it could not be widely understood.

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety