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NEWS/Family Secret's Mixed Reviews

Since its release in movie theaters in Egypt, “Family Secrets” has been receiving mixed reviews. The film is written by first-time scriptwriter Mohammed Abdel Qader, directed by first-time director yet well-known scriptwriter, Hany Fawzy, and produced by Ehab Khalil.

Hailed as the first film to tackle homosexuality as a main theme, Family Secrets filmmakers had a long battle with the Egyptian censorship that requested 13 cuts from the film passing it at the end as an adult-only movie.

Based on a true story, “Family Secrets” is about a young gay man, Marwan, who struggles with his family and community because of being homosexual. Played by first-time actor Mohammed Mahran, Marwan, discovers as a teenager that he is not attracted to girls. His dominating mother denies her son’s sexual orientation at first. She takes him to different therapists who express different attitudes towards the matter. One suggests making Marwan do “manly” tasks around the house; the other prescribes anti-depressants medication that causes him to be sleepy and sluggish. Marwan’s attempts to seek help from different sources all seem to fail. He then decides to follow his sexual desire navigating the same-sex online dating world, which causes him troubles, such as being robbed. Finally, Marwan opens up to a psychologist about his past. The latter discovers the factors that contributed to Marwan’s homosexuality: his father’s absence; his dominating mother that treats him like a girl; and being a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Towards the end of the film, we see how Marwan reconciles with his past and becomes straight.

The film was criticized by cinema critics and the LBGT community for not being progressive in approaching the topic of homosexuality, presenting it as an “illness” that a person should seek treatment for. "I wanted to represent the stages of someone who discovers that they are gay in Egypt," the director told the audience at the Luxor European and Egyptian Film Festival, the Euromed Audiovisual reported. "I wanted to show that in Egypt there is a great lack of information and means to help these people. In Egyptian cinemas, a gay character is always either a villain or an object of derision,” he continued "But the truth is that they are someone with a psychological problem, like someone with depression."

“Family Secrets addresses many issues like different approaches in Egypt’s medical community to homosexuality and bullying in schools. There is a real lack of solutions for these individuals. People condemn them but do not try to help,” The producer of the film said, the Daily News reported.

Regardless of the criticism the film received, “Family Secrets” is considered a bold move as it tackles a taboo in the Egyptian society that people avoid to come close to. The film exposes the bullying, rejection and the difficulties homosexuals encounter in the Egyptian society. 

by Dina Shehata

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