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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

"Onscreen" Special About "Carioca"

 

Translated By Priscilla Adum

 

In 2010, a rough cut of a new documentary about Tahia Carioca was shown as a preview to limited audiences at the Garden City CineClub in Egypt. The new documentary was filmed in 2008 and was directed by Lebanese film maker Nabiha Lotfy. As of February 2012, Lotfy has not yet released the documentary to the general public. In late 2011, she mentioned that she plans some final edits before general release.

The Egyptian television program called Onscreen featured an episode in November 2010 which showed an excerpt from the documentary. It included some very interesting opinions and comments from several very high profile people in the film industry and in the media.

In making the documentary, Nabiha Lofti managed to locate an extremely rare piece of footage of Tahia Carioca dancing before a large crowd at the Bucharest Youth Conference in 1952 — a piece of dance footage of Tahia Carioca that is not from a movie. She dances very much the same in this live performance as she did in her films, contrary to many people's speculation.

Part 1 of the Onscreen Episode

Part 2 of the Onscreen Episode

 

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Translation of Part 1

Click here for the original video on which this translation is based.

 

"A new day and novel news and stages, in a special episode about the life of the late Taheya Carioca"

Glimpses and scenes about the life of the most famous dancer of the 20th century on Onscreen. [Translator's note: "Onscreen" is the name of the television program. The clip then shows some scenes from Taheya's 1944 movie Nadouga and translates the lyrics of the song in that clip.]

"Her life that spans around 80 years, approximately matches the story of Egypt over 80 years."

"She was generous in her expressions and emotions, memories and her relationship with art."

"She was a gallant woman."

"You sensed that her body was poetry in motion. Taheya was Taheya."

 

NARRATOR: [As clips of her films are shown] "Taheya Carioca was the first leading lady of the opening screening of 'CineClub' that opened in Garden City recently, a committee established by intellectuals and journalists for the purpose of screening documentary films and discussing them in a different way."

"This was very clear from the beginning, given their choice of invitees, the ideas that were discussed, their choice of screening the film 'Carioca' by the Lebanese director Nabeha Lotfi."

NABIHA LOFTI: [the film's director (wearing a black dress] "The reason I thought of doing a film about Taheya Carioca, of course has to do with her being an exemplary and incredible dancer and also an exemplary actress. And I think as an actress, perhaps she was even more exemplary than as a dancer, but in both she was really gifted. But what really drew me to making this film about Taheya Carioca was Taheya Carioca the human being, the one who did all these things, danced, acted, and had a role. even a role in the history of Egypt, a big national role, her relationship with others, her love of people. There were so many factors that made me love to do a film about Taheya Carioca."

NARRATOR: "The discussions that were inspired by the film were very timely, especially with the announcement by a number of directors that Taheya Carioca will be the star of the forthcoming Ramadan in series either based on her life or in series taken from her famous films."

MOHAMED EL ADL: [a film producer] "My wish is that this movie is screened far and wide so that we can give direction to the people writing about her life and making the drama serials about Taheya Carioca, because i think my personal view is not just to write about her as a dancer because to do so is like a crime against Egypt's history."

Tahia Carioca

RAJAA GEDAWWY [Taheya's niece] "For this reason, I want to say to those who want to write her biography that they should approach the matter carefully."

NARRATOR: "Without introductions, the writer and director of the documentary recalled that there was a major artist in Egypt known as Taheya Carioca who filled the artistic scene with many works over a span of long years, as the film 'Carioca' tells us."

MOHAMED AMIN AL ALEM: "In my opinion, her dancing involved more beauty than arousal, and had more meaning than show. I used to feel it was not just her body dancing, it's her personality and feelings that are dancing as if she was telling us a story with her body, a human story that has harshness, softness and elegance as if she were an actress [acting it] Our feelings towards her weren't sexual ones."

RAGAA GEDAWWY: "She used to dance without arousing base instincts."

MOHAMED AMIN AL ALEM: "She used to arouse, but she aroused imagination, admiration, and a sense of a human that is full of mirth."

RAGAA GEDAWWY: "She used to dance without looking towards the audience, but looking down, as if she were dancing for something inside her."

Tahia Carioca

ADEL FOUAD: "As we have seen in the film, Taheya Carioca's dancing didn't have sexual innuendo. She had specific movements that were quite adorable and her face was also innocent and beautiful. We should not forget that she was the first one that really gave raqs sharqi so much value and fame."

GAMAL ZAYDA: "She presented raqs sharqi in a very delicate and refined way, just as some people see opera or classical ballet dancers abroad for example. I believe Taheya Carioca brought her performances to heights of refinement in the art of raqs sharqi, that was a very important level and it was the secret of her charm." [Another clip from one of her films is shown.]

 

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Translation of Part 2

Click here for the original video on which this translation is based.

 

MOHAMED ABEL AZIZ: "It's impossible to forget her role in Shabab Emra'a (A Woman's Youth) and numerous other roles as well. Contrary to what is said, Taheya Carioca was the best actress/dancer, not the best dancer/actress. [Shows a movie excerpt.] She was very aware of the character or personality she was presenting, in the details, in the degrees of emotion from one scene to the next." [Another movie excerpt.]

NARRATOR: "It's no secret, to those following Egypt's political history, the unique stances of Taheya Carioca in this arena, especially among the artists of her generation. It was so much so that even an intellectual like Edward Said wrote an article about her that is still referenced today by those who love and want to remember her."

MOHAMED AL ADEL: "Taheya Carioca wasn't just an actress who danced, or a dancer who acted, but a person who had embodied a phase of Egyptian history."

GAMAL ZAYDA: "Taheya Carioca played a role in the national events of 1952 and had her political views. She was not simply a dancer, it was more complex than that. She personified a cross-section of Egyptians during the 20th century."

KHAWLA MATAR: "Sometimes a strong woman is seen as perhaps intimidating, but in this case we saw the beautfiul strong woman, beautiful in her strength, able to express her thoughts, her personality. Even her political stances that were related to Egypt and Arab nationalism and the Palestinian issue, were ones that she felt a part of her character — not stances that she was taught or fed, it was her character, her personality. The young revolutionaries who were working with the Feda'eeyeen, the guerillas, used to hide their weapons in the trunk of Taheya's car and she used to meet them down at Ismailia to deliver their weapons."

SALAH ISSA: "One of the more interesting chapters in Taheya's life was her interrogation in 1954 in the National Front case. Interesting and strange, the issue related to the Wafd Front and a communist organization that was known at the time as 'The Democratic Movement for National Liberation'. From what I saw of her case files, it wasn't attached to her files and there was no crime or accusation in the file I read. She had been jailed pending an investigation and she went voluntarily to prison but there was no charge or accusation leveled against her. Taheya Carioca stayed in jail for around three months, until Abdel Nasser found it too excessive. Iit had gone too far, particularly as other artists could not stomach this matter."

Tahia Carioca

SUN'ALLAH IBRAHIM: "She wasn't a member of anything, but she was a sympathizer and I imagine that if she took any actions, it was out of a feeling of gallantry. Suspicions about Taheya's involvement in the case were linked to her participation in a Youth Conference in Bucharest and Egyptian groups and artists were participating. Among them was Tahia Carioca, and Mustafa Sidqi was one of the supporters. Taheya went and danced at the conference, and bewitched everyone."

NARRATOR: "The documentary includes rare footage and clips of the late Taheya as well as anecdotes and stories."

NABIHA LOTFI [Director]: "There are pictures that were of her from the Youth Conference in Bucharest that are riveting, pictures I think from 1952 or 1953. These pictures were taken by Ahmed El Hadari, the intellectual and cinema analyst. He was in London and travelled to Bucharest where he took a great deal of film footage of the festival. Taheya was present there and she did a wonderful thing over there. People really were impressed and taken by her dancing. What was special about these clips is that they were taken on 8mm film, and when he heard that I was doing this movie he told me, "I have this footage," and we had to really look to find an 8mm projector. We were able to transfer this to the film, a really excellent sample of archival footage."

NARRATOR: "Taheya Carioca remains the premiere Egyptian dancer, and perhaps the last. She is the name that comes first to mind as a reference about Egyptian dancing in the 20th century and she possessed a personal charisma also in addition to her exemplary artistry that sparkled as much as her imprints on arts and politics."

AUDIENCE MEMBER: "She combined so many traits that are rarely found in one person. She was very beautiful and had such a light and witty spirit and was talented in everything she did. She was honest, whether in her acting or personal actions. In tune with herself. One never got the sense that she did anything out of hypocrisy or anything hypocritical or as an act, unless she was acting. She was a strong fearless woman, a gallant noble lady".

Tahia Carioca

 

NABIHA LOTFI: "She was a very intelligent woman, and had a beautiful spirit, a beautiful humanity and she always left a memorable impression on people who would recall that she did this or that."

MOHAMED EL ADL: "For example, once she saw a man on a buggy beating a donkey harshly, she got out of her car and she smacked him. These are little framed incidents, but they tell you who this person was. She was a lady who was willing to fight for and defend her point of view, from the time she was born and fled her home as a young girl, until she died. When she had a point of view, there was no doubt that she would defend it fiercely whether we agree with it or not."

GAMAL ZAYED: "She had such an exemplary personality, personifying the Egyptian girl, who understands the culture of her country in a very good fashion. She related to the culture of her country."

NARRATOR: "There are stories and anecdotes about relationships and personal stances that Taheya Carioca personified. But there remains the story of her and Umm Kulthum that has a special angle, a special flavor."

NABIHA LOTFI: "Taheya's relationship with Umm Kulthum was a a beautiful relationship that goes way back, because she knew Taheya's mother. Umm Kulthum used to sing for the harvesters and I think Taheya's mother used to make them muhalabia, a milk-based dessert. Because Umm Kulthum used to sing for the harvesters, and because her voice was beautiful, Taheya's mother had a special spot in her heart for her. Therefore, she was generous with the nut toppings on the dessert. Taheya was very little in those days and didn't know this, so when her mother came to Cairo, Taheya wanted to introduce her to Umm Kulthum. Umm Kulthum said to Taheya, "You want to introduce me to her, the lady of the muhalabia and the nut toppings!" Umm Kulthum was a very witty and light-hearted woman. After that, Taheya's mother remained in a flat in Zamalek so she could be close to Umm Kulthum and be able to visit her. When Umm Kulthum passed away, Taheya said, 'I have lost my mother all over again'. They had such a strong bond."

NARRATOR: "So many discussions surrounded the anecdotes and tales in the film 'Carioca' that shed light on some hidden aspects of her life and that was the goal that Nabiha Lotfi set out for herself with her documentary. To challenge every 'creative' who wants to do a film about the life of the late Taheya Carioca."

 

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About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 

Priscilla

 

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