Raised by a Catholic-Italian mother, and a Russian-Jewish father, both born in the U.S., as was I, I was once the national marketing director for Arab Film Distribution, AFD, Seattle, WA, when the documentary, Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt, was first released in the U.S. Exclusively distributed by AFD, Yahya Sinno, president of AFD, was responsible for the home division or Internet orders. I was responsibile for the institutional division of AFD, first, watching the films and documentaries in our library, then marketing them, including Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt, to colleges and universities (and libraries) to professors who used them as their course curriculum, for example, for gender studies or religion. (Yahya and I designed the video/DVD cover of Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Eqypt.) It was one of dozens of outstanding independent documentaries - and films of all genres -representing the 20 Arab countries, Iran, and recently, the US, that AFD, distributed. Now, there are hundreds of titles. In fact, in 2006, I believe, the highly acclaimed documentary, IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, garnered 3 Academy Award nominations for best documentary. Written and directed by an American filmmaker, John Langley, who arrived and began shooting in Iraq shortly after Bush declared war in 2003, where he stayed, I believe, for 2 years filming, the producer is Yahya Sinno, president of AFD. Congratulations!
You're probably wondering by now, what the hey - not much - does all that have to do with the review of Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt? Well, in a very round-a-bout way, smile, the point is that I loaned my coveted copy of Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt, to a friend, but forgot whom... So, recently, I bought a copy while shopping on Amazon.com for something else, hence, the following review:
Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt
Well, for starters, Umm Kulthum is without a doubt one of the most amazing, courageous, exciting and incredible singers not only of the Islamic world but world at large! Overall, the documentary is outstanding! Taking holy verses from the Koran and putting them to incredible Middle Eastern music, and singing it in a way nobody else can - many have since tried and miserably failed - Umm Kulthum is a true inspiration, a diva, in the highest, holiest and purest sense! As an Egyptian, Muslim girl, she traveled with her father, a strict Muslim holy man who dressed her as a boy, since it was unheard of for a Muslim girl (or woman) to appear in public singing, which she did to help support her family. Umm Kulthum eventually sang as a girl - and later as a woman - in public, and became the greatest and most beloved and revered singer the Arab and Muslim world has ever known! Treated as royalty by presidents, and beloved by millions and millions worldwide, millions took the streets not only in Cairo, Egypt, but in other Muslim countries as well, to mourn her passing, Umm Kulthum is an icon. This documentary chronicles her entire life, and includes jaw-dropping actual footage of her concert performances of her most popular songs. Today, as seen in the documentary, when adults were randomly stopped on the streets of Cairo, Egypt, and asked if they'd heard of Umm Kulthum, every face immediately lit up and smiled and typically, people sequed into singing a song or humming a refrain from a favorite Umm Kulthum song. Even the children, when ransomly asked if they'd heard of Umm Kulthum, they, too, lit up and smiled and sequed into singing a song or humming a refrain from a favorite song. And, today, Umm Kulthum still lives in the hearts and minds of millions and millions who still cherish her and sing her songs - men, women and children alike. Umm Kulthum is a role model not only for Muslim girls and women, but for women in general, for what she accomplished decades ago, and in a man's world, and in a conservative Muslim (man's) world, at that, with all due respect, is nothing short of remarkable! Although virtually unknown inside the U.S, which is a shame, since I, too, like most, didn't give much thought to films from the Middle East, (quite arrogant, I know), Europe and Japan, yes, the Middle East, no, that is, until I was hired by AFD and watched dozens of films by independent filmmakers from the 20 Arab countries and Iran, and discovered, much to my amazement, shock and utter delight, that some of the best (filmmakers and) films I'd ever seen were stories about and from the Middle East! And, that's coming from a filmmaker trained at - what is considered to be - the finest - American as apple pie - film school in the world, the USC School of Cinema Television! I gotta tell ya, folks, Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt, is one great documentary! Do yourself a favor... Take off your shades, open your heart and mind, sit back and relax and enjoy a truly remarkable film by an amazing woman filmmaker about an amazing woman singer whose "Voice Like Egypt" is like NO one else you've ever heard before. The one, and ONLY...Umm Kulthum!