Post-revolt Egypt’s TV soaps tackle taboos, real life

Post-revolt Egypt’s TV soaps tackle taboos, real life

CAIRO - Shady political types, police abuses, corruption at the heart of the state: "new" topics tackled in Egypt's popular soap operas are far removed from traditional family sagas and classic comedies.

Revolution and regional competition have spurred the change in a country long the largest provider of television series to the Arab world.

"Now we can talk about what Egyptians go through in real life," said film critic Tareq El Shennawi.

It all started with Egypt's January 2011 uprising, in the tumult of the Arab Spring, that ended up toppling president Hosni Mubarak after 30 undisputed years in power.

Egypt-produced serials swung the spotlight onto previously taboo topics such as state institutions and the security forces.

Light caricatures of everyday life switched to ambitious projects reflecting the political and social changes sweeping the country.

"Before, it was impossible to discuss the police without the unions getting involved," said Ahmed Fuad Selim, who played a corrupt general in the hit 2012 serial "Taraf Talet" (Third Party, in Arabic).

Such a role would not have existed before the revolution, said Selim, who featured in several films by the celebrated late director Youssef Chahine.

Now, "all state institutions are game."

When he first began writing for the small screen, Mohammed Amin - one of a new generation of Egyptian scriptwriters - had to be careful about how he depicted police characters.

"You couldn't talk about police corruption," he said. "At least not directly."

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