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.

More Film

  • Kate Winslet Diane Keaton Mia Wasikowska

    Kate Winslet, Diane Keaton, Mia Wasikowska to Star in 'Silent Heart' Remake

    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. […]

  • (L to R) Young Tanya (JESSICA

    'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    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. […]

  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

    'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' Stage Musical in the Works

    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. […]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    Sundance Festival's Economic Impact Jumps Up 26% From 2017, Study Says

    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. […]

  • Aubrey Plaza'Ingrid Goes West' film premiere,

    LA Film Festival Adds Inclusion Initiatives

    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. […]

  • Robin Hood trailer

    Jamie Foxx Teaches Taron Egerton to Steal From the Rich in 'Robin Hood' Trailer

    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. […]

  • 'Dark Knight' Changed Movies, and the

    Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' Changed Movies, and the Oscars, Forever

    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. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content