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Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival: Cyber Bullying of Celebrities

Lifestyle & Health

Lamis ElSharqawy

Fri, 11 Oct 2019 11:55 GMT

For the third year running, there is harsh criticism being dished out for the celebrities at the Gouna International Film Festival (GIFF), on social media, but mostly of women. The festival is held every year in September in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of El Gouna. 

GIFF, one of the largest celebrations of the film industry in the Middle East, is not only about walking the red carpet. The festival has concluded its nine days from September 19th to 27th, with more than 80 films screened in total, while awards amounted to $224,000.

Stars participating in film festivals around the world usually go for striking outfits to appear as glamorous as possible as they can on the red carpet. However, they fail to avoid the storm of criticism that emerges on social media platforms, with plenty of room for instant judgment, stereotyping and of course cyber bullying.

Over the three years of the festival, social media users have taunted and verbally harassed actresses on the internet for their appearances and fashion choices, but sometimes they are critical of their body shapes, skin colour and characteristics. Some have reacted via social media accounts, expressing their anger while others focused on taking more selfies with peers on the red carpet.

Hana Shiha, a young Egyptian actress, was severely criticised for wearing a short dress that revealed her body. However, she did not respond to the social media hassle, which in itself is a kind of silent response, or the message of “I don’t even care.”

 “We can’t appeal to all kinds of people and we certainly accept criticism but it has become increasingly offensive nowadays,” Engy Wegdan, an Egyptian actress told 7Dnews.

Engy, who attended the latest edition of GIFF, has been a strong supporter of body positivity. Recently, a video of Engy has been trending in Egypt, with 2.4 million views, as she defended larger and curvy women, in response to an Egyptian famous TV anchor who disapproved of them.

Some social media users believe that part of being a celebrity is accepting criticism from the audience. “It is not called bullying when we disapprove of dresses of celebrities. It is our right to criticise them, as long as they expose their looks to the audience,” Samar Mohamed, a social media user who observed the event told 7Dnews. “it was a contest over who has the most sequins on her dress, with no modesty at all,’ she said.

Sandy, an Egyptian pop singer responded to the criticism over wearing a man-like suit to GIFF. “I wanted to appear in a different look, as all other outfit ideas were taken up by other female attendees,” she told Arab Wood, a celebrity news show aired on Saudi satellite television channel, Rotana Cinema.

However, Wegdan reiterated it is not possible to respond to all the gossip surrounding an actor. “Negative opinions are just a minority. Ignorance is better in such case,” she added.

In the 2018 GIFF, Dina ElSherbiny, an Egyptian actress became the focus of cyberbullying, that made her friends in the film- making community defend her. People on social media criticised ElSherbiny’s overall look, literally from head to toe. Attending the 2019 GIFF, ElSherbiny decided to speak out, as photographers welcomed her on the red carpet, before her photoshoot, saying, “I know what will happen to me this year. Please take care of my image. I am not good at posing.”

Even men had a share of the criticism over their appearance. Mohanad Kojak, an Egyptian fashion designer was harshly criticised for wearing a floral sequin beaded blazer.

Reham Abdel Ghaffour, an Egyptian actress who co-starred with ElSherbiny in a successful TV series last summer, decided to mock herself on Instagram, posting: ‘here is my car wash machine-like dress.”

Despite criticism, some celebrities took the opportunity of GIFF to wear outfits to serve a global cause. Sarrah Abdel Rahman, a rising young Egyptian star, dared to wear on the red carpet a custom-made crop top that’s made out of upcycled plastic bags. While veteran actress Elham Chahine chose to wear a chiffon dress with a dog -print that showed her affection for animals.

Middle East