Waking up to NPR's Morning Edition yesterday, I came to find out that Omar Sharif had died and was buried in an out of the way cemetery in Cairo (listen to story by clicking on link in previous sentence). Although the only film of his I saw was Dr Zhivago (the plot of which I don’t remember, but then I rarely remember movie plots), I felt my heartstrings tightening for reasons that will become self-evident shortly.
Yesterday afternoon I logged onto the Morning Edition site in order to leave a comment and noticed that someone had left a feminist (sounding) one complaining about the reporter’s attention to the attire worn by one of the actresses attending the funeral. I responded to the comment in defense of the reporter as I don’t think her description of the actress’ “pencil skirt” was in any way demeaning to women... I copy hereunder the comments, mine included, on NPR’s reporting of the burial of Omar Sharif:
· What's the journalistic point of mentioning what the Lebanese actress wore to the funeral? If an explicit point isn't made, then the only thing its inclusion does is reinforce that women are constantly being judged for what they're wearing.
I don’t think the reporter was being “anti-feminist” by reporting on the actress’ attire; she was just using it as a device to paint a picture of the cosmopolitan glamour of Cairo represented by the movies of Omar Sharif and, by extension, of Sharif himself...
...To me the story awoke personal history, or more precisely, family lore and nostalgia for a now mythical place I only know through my father’s descriptions of it. A city from a world that has not only changed historically but fundamentally, for what the person commenting on the multi-ethnic nature of Cairo at the time of Omar Sharif's rise in the cinema failed to mention is that the multi-ethnicity of “that great city” included a large population of Jews (from the 70,000 residing in Egypt before 1957). In fact, Omar Sharif lived on the same floor and next door to my Jewish Egyptian parents in the apartment building they resided in the neighborhood of Heliopolis at the time. This before my father was “questioned on a daily basis” by the Egyptian police because his first and last name coincided with the first and last name of a well-known Zionist; and this before all their goods were confiscated by the Nasser regime and they decided it was safer to emigrate. Yep, definitely a bygone era.