In 1949, just three years before the blessed Free Officers Movement and one year after returning from the war in Palestine, a young Egyptian man called Gamal Abdel Nasser bought a ticket — according to news website Dot Masr — to see US film It’s a Wonderful Life. When the show ended, he bought a ticket to watch it again. The next day, he returned with his friend Abdel Hakim Amer to watch the film for a third time.
Immediately after the revolution, Nasser asked the production company for a copy of the film to screen it in the military camps. On March 4, 1953, he wrote an article in Akher Sa’a magazine titled “A Story That Has Influenced My Life,” describing the film as “one of the strongest moral influences on my life.” “If I could take each citizen with me to a cinema screening that film, I wouldn’t hesitate,” he added.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 production directed by Frank Capra. It’s about an angel that appears to a man who’s about to commit suicide, changing him and his view of life’s value forever. The American Film Institute classified it as one of the best 100 American films of all time.
In his article, Nasser revealed the secret of his attachment to it: “the film is a genuine representation of my perception of the individual’s value, and my belief that one individual can change the history of a nation and perhaps even the history of the world.” This followed a complaint about the citizens’ lack of enthusiasm: “The most nerve-wrecking thing for me during the [free officers’] movement’s first days was feeling that many of my fellow countrymen stood by watching us, and their contribution to our efforts did not exceed cheering and applause.”
Knowing that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi admires President Nasser — to the extent that he agreed to name the first helicopter carrier Egypt obtained from France after him — I was inspired by Nasser’s article to suggest a short list of films for President Sisi that might also change his view of political life, and give him new and creative ideas to help him with the heavy burdens of rule.
In an American court, 12 jurors must reach a unanimous decision in a murder case: is the accused, a minor, guilty or not? At first, 11 jury members agree that the evidence clearly shows that he’s guilty. Things turn around as the twelfth juror changes their point of view one by one, however. Using patience, reason and planning, he convinces everyone that there is no proof beyond reasonable doubt. And so they vote the poor child not guilty.
I believe Twelve Angry Men can provide the president with arguing strategies to singlehandedly sway the opposition, proving that wise judgment does not necessarily come from the collective or the ballots, and that alone he can out-reason the majority. Eventually, everyone would yield to his wisdom and join his camp, instead of causing a lot of trouble and hubbub about every decision, draft law and national project, clogging up the president’s vision and aspirations.
If Mr. President is angry at the ignorant Egyptian media, which fails to chase down the truth, it’s only reasonable to conclude that the media criticizes and obstructs the president just for the sake of obstruction, and not out of a desire to be objective and constructively criticize. Since the president has explicitly objected to the media’s shameful performance, declaring publicly and angrily that “it’s a shame,” I think Wag the Dog would be the best film to give the president ideas on how to manipulate it and public opinion — by himself and quite easily and efficiently — to achieve the desired effect. In the film, an American president faces a sex scandal right before the elections. He uses Hollywood and a spin doctor to fabricate news about a total war to distract public opinion. While the American people believe they’re in the middle of a dangerous war, in reality it’s just a setting with actors and special effects.
I definitely don’t want the president to get closely — or even remotely — involved in any kind of lies, deception or pretense. I also wouldn’t want him to get involved in — God forbid — distracting the public’s attention from the disasters hitting the country by fabricating other disasters. What I want to bring to his attention is that using topnotch media experts would quite easily enable him to illustrate and highlight his achievements — which no one would pay attention to — explaining how profound and effective they are. This could also reveal the grave dangers surrounding us, and the tremendous effort that has been exerted to fight them. That way, the president won’t need the media and he won’t need to state that “it’s a shame” again, because they won’t be holding the dog anymore — he would be the one holding the dog, wagging it whichever way he likes.
In this four-Academy-Award-winning film, the young king of England, George VI, suddenly ascends to the throne. He hires a speech expert to help him communicate with the people and stir up their emotions through his speeches, whether on radio, TV or live.
In principle, the president doesn’t have problems in speech, and his articulation is perfectly sound. The problem lies in the emotional, genuine and wholehearted nature of his speeches, which reflect a sweeping kindness and great tenderness in phrases like “Don’t you know that you’re the light of our eyes?” or “I swear to God Almighty, if I could be sold, I’d sell myself.” Such phrases are well understood by the simple and beautiful Egyptian public. But malicious people, inside and outside Egypt, pick on them, trying to use them to falsely prove how shallow the president’s vision and culture are, and how superficial and populist his approach to speeches is.
This film would bring the president’s attention to the necessity of using specialists again, to prove that he has a brilliant ability to develop his oratory, crushing everyone in and outside Egypt, whether laymen or intellectuals. He would silence them forever, showing them that he has enough vision, strategy, depth and insight — and at the same time enough rhetoric and simplicity — to make him the most eloquent orator in history — similar to Stalin, Churchill, Hitler and even Hosni Mubarak.
Based on a novel written by the great British author George Orwell in 1948, shortly after World War II, this film (released in 1984) takes place in Oceania: a superstate with a totalitarian regime, government surveillance and a brainwashed public in a world at eternal war. Oceania is ruled by Big Brother, who controls the state of affairs through the Ministry of Truth (responsible for the falsification of facts), the Ministry of Love (responsible for torture and brainwashing), the Ministry of Peace (responsible for war), and the Ministry of Plenty (responsible for maintaining shortages and austerity).
Despite the novel’s bad reputation in Egypt — which has led to rumors that the police have arrested people involved in obtaining or carrying it — as in the case of any other intellectual literary work, a smart and skilled reader can deduct wisdom from it, and dismiss any malignant or insidious ideas.
What I think the president should take away from this film is how to deal with state bodies, which apparently don’t share his progressive vision of Egypt and continue to use the same old methods — from theft, corruption, injustice and promoting false awareness to oppression, torture and fabrication. Indeed, even in the most developed and established western democracies there still are bodies that operate in old-fashioned ways. But a state leader can suggest effective and entirely constitutional solutions to eliminate them — like what the US did when it prohibited torture entirely on its territory and delegated it to third-world client states, including Egypt during the atrocious Mubarak/Omar Suleiman era.
I’m definitely not going to exhaust the president by asking him to watch the whole Matrix trilogy. It would be enough if he took a look at part one, which tells the story of a world where machines control humans, after artificial intelligence won a violent war. Humans have become a cheap source of energy planted in a giant matrix controlled by computer software that puts their brains into a coma, simulating a virtual life as their energy is harvested.
Is there a conspiracy against Egypt? Do we live in a matrix where the other wants to capture our will and our minds to harvest our energy? No sane person would say otherwise. In fact, reasonable people are aware that we’re not only confronting one conspiracy, we’re confronting at least five. Some more insightful and pessimistic people would confirm that there are actually seven conspiracies.
In the film, Neo’s Oracle tells him that he’s “the One” — a savior just like our president, who is also said to have received good omens — and that Neo is the only one who can save the people from the conspiracy and free them from the matrix. In spite of the relentless conspiracy, and attempts to discourage Neo and convince him that the Oracle is wrong, that she has deceived him, and that he’s not the chosen one, Neo continues to believe in himself so much that he manages to stop the bullets threatening the nation’s security with his bare hands.
What I would like to point out to the president is that if he doesn’t turn out to be the nation’s savior, he shouldn’t despair or be discouraged. He should actually continue to fight the conspiracy, if not as president, in any other position in which he could loyally serve this country.
Finally, I have consulted with a select group of savvy friends who stay up-to-date with the most recent and finest foreign films, especially sixth-generationHollywood films that spread subliminal messages. They insist that the president should watch films like The Hunger Games, V for Vendetta, andGladiator, which could warn him about a potential new revolution that would jeopardize Egypt’s stability and add it to the list of collapsing countries like Syria, Iraq and the UK (which has been recently targeted through Brexit, and the economic and security collapse that entails). But I am quite certain that the president, who warned of a popular uprising prior to January 25. 2011, is capable of anticipating any upcoming revolution and preparing for it wisely and competently.
Translated by Amira El Masry