Beautifully conceived and expertly edited, video artist Rania Stephan’s “The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni” is a multifaceted work that uses VHS clips from Egyptian star Soad Hosni’s films to explore the iconic thesp’s screen image. Commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial, the docu works as both art installation and cinema piece, revealing the diverse modes of female representation embodied in Hosni’s charismatic roles. Given the star’s large fanbase and the controversy surrounding her unnatural death in 2001, it’s inevitable that auds familiar with her work will be the most responsive.Divided into three “acts” with a prologue and epilogue, the docu uses a wealth of clips from many of Hosni’s 82 features, made between the early 1960s and 1991. Though this is a reduction of Hosni’s achievement, act one reveals Hosni in the bloom of youth, act two focuses on her as sexualized woman and act three shows her characters undergoing emotional extremes. Debate still rages around her death in London: Though it was officially ruled a suicide, recent revelations support the claim she was murdered by Egypt’s intelligence services, making Stephan’s work unavoidably ripe with extratextual meaning.
A Joun Films, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture production, with the support of CNC, Fidlab, the Serpentine Gallery. Produced, directed, written, edited by Rania Stephan.
Camera (color/B&W, HD), Rana Eid. Reviewed at Doha Tribeca Film Festival (competing), Oct. 27, 2011. Running time: 67 MIN.