Zoom Lens

Two Egyptian Films at the Fine Arts
Uum Kulthum is not exactly a household name here, but diva collectors and world music fans will welcome Uum Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt (1996), a portrait of the most famous classical singer of the Arab world. Kulthum's career ran from the 1920s, when she arrived in Cairo as a peasant and caused an immediate sensation among both the hoi polloi and high society, until her death in 1975. In thrilling concert and movie footage, along with quotes from Kulthum and her admirers, director Michal Goldman gives a bracing picture of a woman who was not only a great artist but also gave spiritual impetus to Egypt's struggle to rid itself of British colonial rule. Also on the bill is Mohamed Khan's masterful feature Dreams of Hind and Camilia (1989), about two housemaids who forge a bond in the midst of multiple oppressions. This well-acted slice of social realism is unforgiving in its portrayal of life on the lowest rung of the Egyptian social ladder, and appears downright radical in its suggestion that Hind and Camilia can find in each other what a male-dominated culture refuses to give them.

-- Gary Morris

Uum Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt screens Wednesday through Tuesday, April 1-7, at 7:15 p.m. (with Dreams of Hind and Camilia at 8:45 p.m., and additional shows at 5:10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6; call (510) 848-1143.

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