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Yacoubian Building Film Analysis Essay

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2020


The movie, Yacoubian building, is based on a novel by the same title, which was written by an Egyptian author called Alaa Al Aswany. Its main genre is drama but it has also incorporated comedy within its context. The movie was done in the year 2006 and was directed by Marwan Hamed. There are eight main themes in the movie.

These themes highlight issues such as the difference between old and new Egypt, killing poor peoples’ dreams, government corruption, the lack of human rights in Egyptians’ jails, sexual harassment against women, homosexuality, people’s greediness and love. These themes have been illustrated by the use of cinematic elements.

Main characters

Yacoubian building starts as a documentary, through which the history of the Yacoubian luxury apartment building is made known to the audience. The apartment serves both as a metaphor for modern Egypt and a central location in which most of the main characters either reside or work. Most of the action also takes place in this apartment. One of the main characters who live in this building includes Zaki Pasha, a successful engineer who spends most of his time chasing after women.

His habit created hostility with Dawlat, his sister because Dawlat thought that his brother destroyed the family’s reputation. For this reason, Dawlat kicked his brother out of his apartment and sought legal action to take over their father’s inheritance. Taha Al Shazli is also another character highlighted in the film as a victim of extremist organization that made him become a terrorist after the police academy rejected him. Another character in this movie is Buthayna.

She was a young girl who fell in love with Taha but he had to abandon her after Taha became an extremist. After her father’s death, Buthayna worked in many clothing stores in order to support her family. It was in these clothing stores that she was sexually molested several times by her bosses. Hatim, a successful journalist of a French language daily newspaper is also another main character in the film. He was a homosexual who tried to take advantage of a poor police officer called Abdu-Rabuh, by telling him lies about his life.

Because of his poor socioeconomic status, Abdu-Rabuh gave in to Hatim’s demands. However, after the death of his son, Abdu-Rabuh left Hatim and went to look for another handsome guy. This turned to be an episode that heralded Abdu-Rabuh’s death. There is also another character by the name Hagg Azam, whose story is highlighted in the film. Azam was a shoeblack who later turned to be one of the wealthiest men in Egypt. He used corrupt ways to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

He bribed the minister of interior in order to become a parliament member. Azam also secretly married a poor lady and kept the marriage unannounced. Christine is another character whose story is pretty intriguing in the film. She was Zaki’s girlfriend but they were later separated because Zaky was a playboy. Their story is quite surprising because despite their separation, Christine and Zaki have remained friends.

Main themes

The main themes in Yacoubian Building are; difference between old and new Egypt, killing poor peoples’ dreams, government corruption, the lack of human rights in Egyptians’ jails, sexual harassment against women, homosexuality, people’s greediness and love

The difference between old and new Egypt

This theme has been highlighted in the film by the documentary-style opening. The introduction of the movie depicts Egypt as a great country that had beautiful buildings. It also discredits Jamal Abdul-Nasser’s revolution because according to the movie, the revolution has dragged Egypt to the worst.

This episode is expressed metaphorically by the roof, before and after the revolution. Thus, before the revolution, the roof was very clean and was barely used as a storage facility. However, after the revolution, the roof was used as a living space for low class families and for aviculture which caused it to become dirty and messy.

Killing poor people’s dreams

Societal bureaucracies cause poor peoples dreams to be shattered by forcing them to give up pursuing their dreams. For instance, Taha’s dream of joining the police academy was thwarted. This theme is illustrated by close shot of Taha’s eyes the moment he was rejected. The close shot signifies the injustice in the society.

It also shows how people are discriminated based on their socioeconomic class. Thus, although he gave confident answers during the interview, Taha was rejected simply because his father was a doorman. Thus, poverty played a key role in his rejection even though he had good grades in high school.

Government corruption

The government has been portrayed as a system that uses its powers to control people’s lives. The rabbit paint which means a million Egypt pounds is used in this movie symbolically to represent corruption of the Egyptian government. The minister for interior was used to illustrate this. He asked for one million pounds to let Hagg Azam win his seat to the parliament.

The idea of the interior minister to fraudulently alter the election results depicts him as a corrupt fellow. The interior minister also wanted Hagg Azam to become his business associate by force. Thus when Azam declined, he was accused of being a drug dealer by the interior minister. This scene illustrates the government’s involvement in corrupt activites and how it destroys people who go against it.

Lack of human rights in Egyptian jails

The lack of human rights in Egyptian jails disorients people’s personalities because people who are tortured while under custody tend to seek vengeance. In Yacoubian Building, the people who were involved in a demonstration against the government were tortured and sexually molested so as to reveal their leaders’ whereabouts. This issue is illustrated when Taha changed his costumes from the usual modest clothes that pictured him as an intellectual.

He is also depicted as a charming person whose tolerance encourages him to pursue a degree, get a decent job and marry Buthayna, who was his childhood’s sweetheart. However, after he was raped in jail, Taha’s code of dressing changed. He had a different appearance that represented a spiteful person who seeks for revenge. The experience in jail changed him from a modest person who lived a clean life to a terrorist who participated in a terror attack at a police station that killed two police officers.

Sexual harassment of women

Sexual harassment is quite rampant in Egypt. It is quite clear that the government is reluctant to eliminate this issue. The high rate of sexual molestation of women by strangers attests to government’s reluctance to deal with this issue. Buthayna’s close shot while washing her shirt shows how this theme is portrayed. Thus, in Egypt, the women are obliged to modify their behavior so as to satisfy the sexual desires of their male counterparts.

When Buthayna quit her job due to sexual harassment by her boss, just to maintain her honor, her mother was so upset. Buthayna’s mother and her friends forced her to believe that it was acceptable for the boss to do anything he wanted as long as she keeps her clothes on. For this reason, she let her boss do it. Buthayna even asked for twenty pounds from her boss in return for the sexual harassment by her boss.


In Arab countries, homosexuality is considered a shameful and immoral act in which those who practice it are forced to keep the habit unexposed. Lighting is used to help portray this theme in Yacoubian Building. The fact that Hatim is often found in dark places alone shows how the society views homosexuals.

Thus, those people whose sexual orientation typifies that of homosexuals are usually discarded regardless of their socioeconomic status. Zaki made fun of Hatim when they were waiting for Abu-Rabuh to go close the elevator’s door upstairs. This shows that homosexuals are rejected by the Egyptian society. This theme is further expounded by the fact that Hatim refused to publish a report on homosexuality in Egypt.

Greediness of the people

It is pretty gluttonous for people to willingly fight against their family members in order to acquire wealth, while at the same time being least concerned of the consequences. In Yacoubian Building, dialogue is used as a tool to illustrate this theme. When they had an argument, Dawlat kicked his brother Zaki out of his apartment. Zaki argued that his sister had planned this for a long time and that she wanted to keep the wealth for herself and her kids.

This statement by Zaki shows that his sister is a money seeker who does not care about the consequences of the means by which she acquires wealth. Dawlat goes further to sue her brother on the grounds that Zaki lost the ability to control his own possessions. She also brought the police to Zaki’s office while he was having an affair with Buthayna, in order to lock him up in prison. The reason behind this was to take control of her brother’s possessions.


It is worth noting that love is an element that is known to change people’s lives for the better. Christine’s song and Zaki’s dance with Buthayna illustrate the importance of love in this movie. In the beginning Zaki was a man known to have been obsessed with women since he was always chasing after them. It was a thrilling scene to see Zaki fall in love with Buthayna, a moment that changed Zaki’s life for the better. Thus, Zaki stopped chasing after other women.

The movie also shows the first time in which Zaki had dinner with Buthayna without trying to take advantage on her. It is also the first time Zaki shows his willingness to make Buthayna happy and to give her a life that she had never dreamed of. The fact that love can change a person’s life for the better is exemplified when Zaki finally marries Buthayna at the end of the movie.


Yacoubian Building is a wonderful Egyptian movie that highlights important themes which include the differences between old and contemporary Egypt, killing poor people’s dreams, government corruption, the lack of human rights in Egyptians’ jails, sexual harassment of women, homosexuality, people’s greediness, and love. This movie is quite important because it addresses issues that are barely discussed such as homosexuality and sexual harassment against women.

The movie also depicts Egypt as it is without any bias or alteration of information. My favorite part of this movie is the documentary-style opening and how it blames the revolution of Abdul-Nasser for dragging Egypt to the worst is. This is because I totally agree with that idea.

The other part that excites me most is the scene where the police officer was killed because I think he deserved it. However, what is not apparent to me is the reason behind the portrayal of Fanos and his brother Malak as Coptic Christians. I have watched the movie a number of times and I still find myself watching it over and over again. It is a nice movie that I would highly recommend anyone to watch.

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