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Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia Stays Relevant 26 years later. 

posted on: Apr 17, 2024

By: Malak Hassouna / Arab America Contributing Writer 

 The 1998 hit Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia starring Mohamed Henedi, Ahmed El Sakka, Mona Zaki, Hani Ramzi, Gadaeh Adel(Abla), and many more depicts Khalaf Dahshouri(Henedi) as an upper Egyptian student who received a scholarship at the American University in Cairo, altering his life after falling in love. The movie is more than a love story as it speaks on many aspects of society which when I was a child I did not fully grasp. Some being colorism, classism, Palestinian liberation, materialism, government censorship, and United States involvement in the Middle East.

Image of Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia cast

In this movie, it would be unjust not to mention the chemistry between Mohamed Henedi, Ahmed El Sakka, and Tarek Lofty. Their sibling-like bond shined through in multiple comedic scenes, especially when they tried to help him win Gadaeh Adel(Abla ‘s character by jumping into the sea to stop Hani Ramzi (Sarij) from winning the race. 

Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia Still Images

The show tackles colorism in Egypt, always an ongoing issue in the region not an unknown to political discussion. As the NYT reported, “Many Egyptians do not see themselves as African at all, identifying much more closely with the predominantly Arab and Muslim nations of the Middle East and North Africa, and many look down on darker-skinned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans.” In the film’s second scene it is very clear when Henedi’s friends gift him a night with a girl (Samara)  who is dark-skinned. He comments on how she is “darker than the dark.” 

The issue of class is discussed when Khalaf is trying to work with his fellow brothers from Upper Egypt in the big city (Cairo). While his friends work service jobs and aspire to do more, he is at AUC trying to fit in with the Americanized population. He runs into multiple issues as an outsider. From his clothes, colleagues, his professor (portrayed by Hani Ramzi), to things as simple as his name. Confrontations with the dual reality of the modern and traditional elapse as seen when Sarij calls him out on being out of place and having a lower income- the reality of not belonging. Yet, he was willing to go above and beyond to impress his colleagues for most of the movie, including asking his father for a car to flaunt for Abla. Nevertheless, by the end, he was proud of his origins. One of the movie’s best scenes is at the end when the iconic song, “Kajwelo” showcasing his makeover.  

Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia scene featuring Kajwelo

The movie demonstrated American diplomacy and the resistance to American dominance of the East through Ahmed (Fathy Abdel Wahab). Ahmed took down the notion that “America is a democracy”,” as stated by Abla and reaffirmed by Sarij, leading demonstrations for the liberation of Palestine on campus and handing out flyers regarding American aggression on the people of the Middle East. The audience witnesses him stand up to his Political Science professor on multiple occasions, including calling out his university for preaching democracy yet trying to censor students’ free speech. Today, in America we know the irony of how the United States limits free speech regarding the issue of Palestine, especially on college campuses. Another representation of Ahmed’s resistance was when a video he made and demonstrated in front of the entire student body regarding Palestinian treatment at the hands of Israeli Occupation Forces. 26 years later it has only gotten worse – we witness a genocide before our eyes. Ahmend achieved getting his colleagues on his side, starting with Khalaf, who stated: “The truth always hurt”, but Ahmed is strong for standing his ground.” Another moment that confronted American supremacy and the need to whitewash was in the represenation of Khalaf singing to Sarij about why he is so American and not proud of his heritage. Ahmed asked why he felt the need to be whitewashed, especially in Egypt. 

Khalaf’s character development throughout the movie is incredible from all angles. At the film’s beginning, he is very much a colorist; however, when Samara takes him in, he learns that all the things he cared about at the AUC were superficial. Khalaf even gave up his car to give back to Samaraa’s family, even though they were not financially stable. Realizing that he has true friends at the AUC who cared for him all along, like Siada, who had eyes for him all along, but it takes him a while to realize that she is his partner, even when Abla broke off her engagement with Sarij and expected Khalaf to want her again. Lastly, taking a political stance, burning the Israeli flag and saying it was not a political action as he is not into politics, but instead, it felt like the right thing to do and brought him comfort.

Sa’eedi Fi Al Jami’a Al Amrikia still image

The movie carried a lot of the Palestinian cause discussion, including protesting the 50th year of Palestinian occupation and calling out the United States for opening the route for them to start taking over the Arab world and calling for a united Arab front to stand up for the United States and Israel. Additionally, do not forget that they are Arab on Arab land and should not be taking over and silencing Egyptian and Arab voices. Looking back now, 75 years of Palestinian occupation, it is heartbreaking to see that not much has changed. 

Overall, it is so great to see that after 26 years, the movie can still touch so many hearts and speak up regarding so many issues. 

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