Chalom and 'Abdu in Bed Together: Coexistence in Togo Mizrahi's Alexandria Films (1930-1939): A Talk with Deborah A. Starr

March 04, 2013
Location: 513 Fayerweather

Deborah A. Starr, of Cornell University, will discuss films written, directed and produced by Togo Mizrahi (1901-1986), an Alexandrian Jew with Italian nationality. This presentation focuses on the portrayal of Alexandria as a cosmopolitan space in Mizrahi’s Arabic-language films produced in his studio in Alexandria between 1934 and 1939. All of these films are comedies of mistaken identity, many of which involve gender play, cross-dressing, and same-sex couples sharing a bed. Taking a cue from a scene in al-cIzz Bahdala [Mistreated By Affluence (1937)] in which Chalom and cAbdu, a Jew and a Muslim, are shown waking up together in their shared bed, Starr traces the interplay between the queering of the private space, specifically the bed, and the films' construction of fluid communal, civic identities. In other words, this talk approaches the phrase 'in bed together' as not just a metaphor of coexistence, but as a key to unlocking the films' projection of notions of sameness and difference, self and other, in 1930s Alexandria.

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