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Thursday, 10 December 2020

My WFH Routine: Iman Ezzeldin, professor of drama, theater and film criticism at Ain Shams University

Iman Ezzeldin, professor of drama, theatre and film criticism at Ain Shams University: Each week my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day. Speaking to us this week Iman Ezzeldin (LinkedIn), professor of drama, theatre and film criticism at Ain Shams University.

I'm Iman Ezzeldin, professor of drama, theater and film criticism at Ain Shams University. I teach theater, film criticism and play analysis between Ain Shams University and the University of Hertfordshire in Egypt in the new administrative capital. I co-founded the film and theater criticism department at Ain Shams in 2006. I'm a regular jury member of several domestic literary awards and film festivals, one of which has been the Sawiris Foundation prize for theatrical texts. I'm also part of an organization called Madad which supports cultural initiatives in the poorer outskirts of Cairo and rural areas of the country.

I was formerly the director of the National Library in Bab al Khalq, the one that was bombed in 2014. It actually happened while I was on a plane heading to Paris. I landed, heard the news and immediately hopped on the next flight back to Cairo. It was a very difficult time for us.

I'm an early riser so I’m usually up at 5:00 am. I have three cats who wake me up pretty early to eat. I feed them, make myself a cup of tea, check my Facebook and Twitter feeds and start getting ready to head out of the house. When I actually leave my house is extremely variable. On some days I'm out of the house by 7:30 am and on others I can stay in until 9:00 am. It mainly depends on my lecture schedule at the universities and meetings at the Jesuit Cinema School, where I’m a board member and consultant. Reading papers and issuing corrections usually takes place from my home in the evenings.

We’re now back to 100% in-person learning: In late March, when the lockdown came into effect, our classes went entirely online. My conversations with post-graduate students, which used to take place in person, shifted to one-on-one video calls. For my undergraduates, lectures were pre-recorded and slides posted online. They could contact me to ask specific questions after reviewing the material. Lectures have now resumed their regular in-person schedule, which has been the case since September.

Staying home didn’t bother me, I actually enjoyed the break from commuting. I started going on more walks in the city, especially during Ramadan. I also got the chance to catch up with TV shows of my own choosing for the first time in years, so I started watching the popular Ramadan series ‘B 100 Wesh’ and ‘El Fetewa.’

Although I’m on a more regular schedule, I can’t say it's totally back to normal now. Meetings, theater visits and public film screenings have all been put on pause for me now. I would usually make it to the Cairo International Film Festival this time of year and spend the entire week watching films but the pandemic has kept me away from many of these cultural events. Even though I was a jury member for the Egyptian films bracket at the Gouna Film Festival earlier this year I chose not to attend over covid concerns.

Theater is in a very bad situation at the moment. With the closure of indoor public spaces there are very few remaining outlets for creators to express their craft to audiences. Individuals and troupes who once hosted theater workshops and plays are now completely destroyed. Some groups have resorted to performances at cafes or open air performances, but it can be difficult to acquire the appropriate licensing.

Young artists need more venues to display their work. Attending the physical performance of a play is a tremendously powerful sensory experience. Watching someone act on stage and in the flesh is irreplaceable, so having a physical theater to showcase these productions is direly needed.

I urge people to check out Zawya for really good independent films, especially during the European Film Festival coming up January 2021. I highly recommend the 2019 Sudanese documentary Talking About Trees. Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s translation of Letters From Egypt by Lucie Duff Gordon gives an important and somewhat overlooked history of Alexandria. Ezzat El Amhawy’s Ghorft El Mosafrin is also a recent read that has been fascinating to get through. Mohamed Aboul Ghar’s recently published book The Pandemic That Killed 180k Egyptians on the 1918 Flu is a very well researched and timely read.

Improving yourself just a little bit every day is key. What I tell my students, and myself, is to always work on polishing their skills and performance whether that is through language, analysis or writing.

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