By Nayera Yasser
A few days ago, many people started claiming that they spotted the legendary Morgan Freeman casually strolling in the streets of Cairo. The rumour kept growing bigger and bigger, until one picture of him standing on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge nearly broke the Internet.
The international superstar indeed arrived in Egypt last Sunday to film a National Geographic documentary. The project was set to be carried out in absolute secrecy; however, such thing is rarely ever possible in Egypt.
“The Story of God” is a documentary discussing religion and the gods of past civilisations, while linking them to current times. Contrary to the circulating rumours, Freeman will not be acting in the movie, and most certainly will not be discussing any anti-religious ideas.
“He is in Egypt to visit old Pharaonic and Islamic sites in both Luxor and Cairo. He will be accompanying a specialised Egyptologist and he will only be asking the questions,” said Wael Abdel Aziz, crew coordinator.
The part of the film that is being shot in Egypt will focus on a book written by an Egyptian scholar called Ahmed Ragab, entitled “The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion, and Charity”. The book highlights the foundation and role of hospitals during the Islamic era. Harvard scholar Ragab will also be part of the documentary, due to his extensive knowledge.
According to Abdel Aziz, Freeman has asked the entire crew to sign secrecy agreements in order to control any leaks. “We only deal with Mr. Freeman through his agent; none of us has privately spoken with him,” said Abdel Aziz.
The crew has already filmed in Turkey, and they are planned to continue filming the documentary in both India and Jerusalem.
In reference to the circulating news regarding the state’s censorship, Abdel Aziz confirmed that they have neither received any official notices, nor do they expect any future complications. “This is a documentary not a movie; meaning that the censorship of theMinistry of Culture of does not apply to our scripts,” said Abdel Aziz.
According to the ministry’s guidelines, documentaries should be approved by the information centre solely, as they only present a general outline of their schedule and main idea, unlike feature films, which are required to present detailed scripts to the censorship authority.
“The minister of culture is a former journalist with wide experience in documentaries; therefore, he of all people understands the regulations,” Abd El-Aziz added. “We have already acquired the approval of national security and the information centre.”
Meanwhile, the director of state censorship conveyed a rather aggressive statement to local media platforms, threatening to deport Freeman and the crew if the film contains any material that “insults God”. According to Abdel Aziz, the crew translated the director’s statement for Freeman.
“Mr. Freeman got very upset when he knew that the director threatened to deport him; he was so upset thathe wanted to cancel the part discussing Egypt,” said Abdel Aziz.
Moreover, the crew member has also confirmed that nothing in the script should offend any religion and that it only discusses previous civilisations and past-era gods.
“Mr. Freeman will be leaving Egypt on Friday, only after meeting the minister of tourism. They have not set the exact time yet; however, they will be meeting on Friday,” said Abdel Aziz.