You Know you Want It - Salma El Tarzi

Workshop: 14 - 23 July

Deadline: 10 July 2020

Open Call - Online Film Research Workshop

You know you want it - Representation of desire, sexual violence and the normalization of rape culture

Workshop with Filmmaker Salma El Tarzi

The process will include examining films, music videos, social media influencer activities, sexual violence and rape cases, as well as public reactions, moralistic outrage, policing the female body and THE STATE.

The workshop combines discourses and practices. The participants will be introduced to the methodology, and will collectively reflect on the questions of representation of desire & the female sexuality, Image & agency, and the normalization of rape culture.

Basic knowledge of video editing is required.


This workshop is part of Salma El Tarzi’s ongoing art research project, “Yataman Wa Honna El Raghebat” since 2018.

The workshop will be online, free of charge and in English.

Please subscribe via email until July 10 to with the subject 'you know you want it', please write a few sentences about yourself.

About Salma El Tarzi

Salma El Tarzi (b. 1978) is a Cairo-based filmmaker, visual artist and essayist. Since her graduation from the High Institute of Cinema in 1999, where she studied cartoon animation, she has worked across several fields within the film and television industries, including direction, production, dubbing and writing. Her independent directorial debut, Do You Know Why? (2004), a short documentary film about young models working in television advertising, won the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival Silver Award that yearShe has since continued working in commercial cinema, predominantly as a producer, while simultaneously pursuing a career as an independent documentary filmmaker. In 2013, she directed her first feature-length documentary, Underground/On The Surface, which explores the local subculture of electro-shaabi music (also known as mahraganat) and won the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival award for best directing. That year, she returned to painting and drawing after a 14-year-long hiatus, culminating in the completion of a co-authored nonfiction graphic novel on institutional and societal gender-based violence during the first years of the 2011 uprising in Egypt (to be released in 2021). she has since authored another autobiographical artist book that was launched in February 2020, in parallel to an ongoing research project about the representation of desire and normalization of rape culture in mainstream Egyptian cinema: Yataman Wa Honna El Raghebat (They refuse but they want). The first iteration of the latter work-in-progress was a video installation shown as part of the Goethe-Institut Cairo's feminist arts festival Tashweesh in November 2018, published in Mada Masr and turned into a short video essay for JEEM platform in 2019.

Background on the Project “Yataman Wa Honna El Raghebat”

For a very long time, Egypt has dominated the commercial cinema industry in the MENA region. This domination meant that mainstream Egyptian film references represented a big part of the collective Arab popular culture. It also meant, that the discourses this cinema mediated were shaped by the complex social, political, and economic relationships that tied Egypt to other countries in the region. While global feminist film studies have mainly focused on the analysis of gender representation and sexual violence, Arab studies of the past twenty years, have limited their focus on different types of representation of women, misogyny and objectification of women in Egyptian films. These contributions did not contextualize the representations nor theorized the complexities of representation politics. This often resulted in misleading assumptions and narrow conclusions about representation of desire as exploitative to women by default. And while this may seem true in a large number of films, it is in her analysis a generalization that creates an “anti sex” narrative. As such, the representation of desire as exploitative to women paradoxically reproduces a patriarchal discourse. This discourse clearly dehumanizes women above all, by stripping them of their sexuality and their will over their own bodies, as well as, by stigmatizing sexual desire. For the above gaps and limitations, In her project Yataman Wa Honna EL Raghebat (You know you want it), Salma El Tarzi approaches the topic of representation of desire and normalization of rape culture in Egyptian pop culture, from two vantage points:

  1. a sex positive position, where she problematize sexist representations of desire, and
  2. a celebration of female sexuality and sexual desire.

Using mainstream Egyptian cinema as one site of inquiry, this research examines the manifestations of patriarchal discourses in Egyptian and Arab popular culture and studies their implications on the normalization of sexual violence. How do patriarchal discourses shape mainstream Egyptian cinema and how this cinema contributes to their reproduction, creating a vicious circle of sexual violence, sexism and misogyny in society. She is also interested in following the shifts in morality discourses throughout the history of Egyptian commercial cinema, whether represented by changes in the laws of censorship or public outrage towards certain films or artists. She use these shifts as starting points to explore the political and socioeconomic contexts of these specific moments where the shifts took place and the effect these factors have has on representations of desire.

In this process, she uses the theoretical knowledge, as well as, the freedom and flexibility of being an artist, allowing her to push boundaries and explore nonconventional methodological approaches in this research project. She combines practical experimental methods of digging deep into the pieces of each film with more methodical approaches allowing her not only to examine the representation of desire through the narrative content of the films, but also to use editing techniques to dissect the films and examine how audio visual elements contribute in the building of the narrative in favor of certain discourses.