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The Yacoubian Building (Amaret Yacoubian) September 20, 2006

Posted by O.J. in Middle East, Movies.
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 Amaret Yacoubian

I’ve been hearing about this movie for a few weeks now.  Maybe one of the first times I feel, see, and hear so much buzz about an Arabic movie.  I’ve actually heard mixed reviews on the film.  Some loved it, others hated it.  I heard some even walked out of the theatre!  I don’t really know much about the movie, but supposedly, it is very controversial and based on the novel of the same name which was published in 2002 by Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswani.  I’m not really into Arabic movies.  I may decide to watch the movie at some point, but just incase I don’t, my very good buddy TK not only watched the movie yesterday, but also provided me with a personal review which I will share with all of you. 

*Note to readers.  Proceed with caution.  The review may contain spoilers. 


Although I am not a fan of Arabic movies I felt the need to see the newly released Amaret Yacoubyan movie and to find out why it has such a mass appeal thus I ventured into this and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome! The film is taken from a novel by Adib Alaa Aswan and is centered on the events that occur in the building which is situated in old downtown Cairo. The film addresses the economic and political developments during the past half century as well as the corruption that is evident in the wake of the Socialist Republican period. It also depicts how the affluent upper and middle class have deteriorated in the Egyptian society as well as shedding light on Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and homosexuality.

The movie, which runs for 160 minutes, is rather long and at times irritated me with its vicious content, but at the same time it created an urge in me to keep following the events as they unfold. It starts with a backdrop of black and white pictures of old Cairo. The building itself was constructed in 1937 by an affluent well to do foreigner (Khawaja) residing in Cairo named Yacoubyan and it’s original inhabitants were groups of different religions and races. The movie depicts how life in Egypt prior to the 1952 revolution was wonderfull and dandy. Yet after the revolution life became chaotic and corrupt for many in society.

The first depiction of character in the movie is played by the renowned Egyptian actor Adel Imam. He plays the son of a former Basha named Dasuqi and his character is one that lives day by day on the glorious memories of his family’s past heritage doing nothing in life except drowning his hidden sorrows in alcohol and chasing women as a lifetime career.  His sister, played by Souad Younis, accuses him of tarnishing the family reputation with his immoral and unethical conduct and files lawsuits to question his mental status.

The second major character in the movie is Shazili who I do not know actually the name of the actor who plays his role. Shazili is the son of the building’s doorman (bawab) and in the beginning, has aspirations to join the police force and become an officer. But unfortunately he lies about his father’s occupation and gets rejected from the police academy holding much resentment regarding his social status in society. He finds harbour for his resentment and gets recruited by an Islamic fundamentalist to undergo violent terrorist actions. He gets captured and is severely tortured adding more fire to his resentment towards the government and in the end he assassinates the officer who tortured him and dies while doing so in a joint pool of blood with the officer, leaving the viewer in confusion to differentiate between the two bloods flowing on the pavement.  

Khaled Al Rasheed brilliantly plays the role of Hatem Rashid, editor in chief for a French newspaper Le Caire. His role is one of an affluent member of society who is aslo gay. During the course of the movie he targets young poor men to “befriend” in order to justify his abusive childhood from his Sudanese caretaker male nanny.

Egyptian actor Noor Al Sharif plays an affluent businessman and Member of Parliament that falls into the corrupt governmental cycle and is blackmailed by a Minister to share his profits. He refuses at first assuming he is much bigger than the corrupt governmental officials but falls astray and gives in to their blackmail tactics.


Overall the movie was something I did not regret going to see and for the first time I believe that the Arabic movie industry has come a long way as the film was excellently written, produced and directed as well. My score is a solid B+…go and see it if you have not so far.


Thank you for the review TK.  Anyone have a different opinion on the film?