Category Archives: General

And the Church Bells Rang in Egypt

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—- By: Alexandra Kinias —

For the first time ever, church bells rang at sunset to announce it was time for Egyptians to break their Ramadan fasting. The tolls of the bells blended with the melodious pray calls echoing in the skies of Egypt.

It was an emotional moment rarely experienced; with hearts swelled with joy and eyes filled with tears, millions of Egyptians, of both faiths, from all walks of life, sat side by side in the streets to share their Iftar [breaking the fast] meal. Christians had fasted too in solidarity with millions of Muslims who marched on the streets in the sweltering July heat, responding to General Sissi’s request, two days earlier. Sissi had asked Egyptians to take the streets to show their consent and support for the army and police and to authorize them with a mandate to take the necessary steps to curb the violence. This violence has been orchestrated by the terrorists groups that have been active since the June 30 earthquake that ousted President Morsi and shook the ground under the feet of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB].

In response to his call, a tsunami of Egyptians flooded the streets of Egypt in another mass demonstration that illustrated the largest national unity event ever taking place in the history of the country. This event delivered a message to the world that both Muslims and Christians are standing in unity as an intricately woven fabric of the society, against their internal enemy that threatens them.

The national unity event that gave the army and police a mandate to proceed with their plans to combat terror came as a reaction to the escalation of violence all over Egypt and the disruption of everyday life in the areas where the ousted president supporters assemble. Not that episodes of violence had stopped during Morsi’s year in office, but it has been publicly incited by the members of his organization–represented in his supporters who had been camping in the streets of Cairo–since his ousting. The staged confrontations and provocation to the army and police and random attacks on civilians and military personnel has resulted in continuous bloodshed and terror affecting all Egyptians, who are living in constant apprehension and fear.

The goal of Muslim Brotherhood has been to resurrect an Islamic Caliphate in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. It failed to understand, however, that it is not the Islamic identity that unites Egyptians, but their Egyptian identify; that one that was born thousands of years ago and which the members of the MB has neither allegiance nor loyalty to. Islam is the religion of the country and it was never under attack. It has never been. Egyptians are pious people, but Egyptian is their national identity, that was first compromised by Nasser’s Pan Arab dream and again targeted by the MB for their Islamic dream. However, this identity is more powerful than both and for that reason Egyptians took to the streets to revolt against the MB that was ready to wipe out their identity, had they been given a chance.

Eighty five percent of Egyptians are Muslims, but the Copts of Egypt are the real owners of the land; a fact that has to be acknowledged, accepted and respected. Even as they became a minority over the centuries, they are still important shareholders of the land. Egypt is the only land they call home and so do the millions of Muslims who took the streets to oust Morsi.

The religion is what a person carries in the heart, but the land is what gives the sense of belonging, of being, of safety, of existence, of pride. The land is where the seeds of existence are sowed in the ground when a person is born and where the roots of belonging grow. Culture and tradition play a very important role in the shaping of one’s life, character and beliefs.

The land, the air, the sky, the streets, the memories of childhood, the nursery rhymes, the school years, one’s first love, the family, the friends, the language, the movies, the books, the music, the dreams, the colors of the flag, the national anthem, the football teams, the flavors of your favorite food, the scents of a jasmine tree or the rain or the ocean, all constitute what a country is. They flow in our veins and beat in our hearts and define our belongings and loyalty. The religion is a big part of people’s lives, but it is not what shapes the identity or loyalty. Religion resides in the hearts. It can travel when people change locations, but leaving a country behind is like tearing your body apart and leaving a vital organ behind; usually a heart.

MB believes in no political borders, and has no loyalty to the land, to the flag, or to the country. Their loyalty is to the hypothetical Nation of Islam they are dreaming to build. And for their dream to materialize, the love and allegiance to the country have to be erased from the hearts of the people. The irony is that Christians realized after Morsi’s year in office that they are not in worse shape than their partners; All Egyptians were in the same boat sailing towards an unknown fate where a nightmare was waiting them at the horizon.

The call for Muslims and Christians to join the Iftar was to restore an image that has been lost, but never forgotten. The Egypt of yesterday has to come out of the ashes and resurrect above and beyond the conspiracies, divisions and differences that had been thrown on the way to hurdle the unity of the nation. For thousands of years the Nile has given life to Egypt and it flows in the veins of all her citizens.

Egypt is a force of regional stability. It is not just the land of sunshine and pyramids, but a strong power and a major player in the political arena. Its stability is very essential for the world peace. A major column for the stability of Egypt is a national unity between the partners of the land. The situation between Christians and Muslims had been volatile for many decades. And the sectarian tension and violence was systematically fueled by the regime of Mubarak that used the strategy of divide and conquer, to hold its grip tight on the people. And in doing so, the sense of national unity was lost. Fuel was added to the fire whenever a sectarian incident erupted, which always ended dramatically with more bodies to be buried and more hatred to fill the hearts.

I dream of an Egypt where religion is removed from identity cards. I dream of an Egypt where people are not stigmatized or stereotyped because of their names. I dream of an Egypt where people are not labeled according to their religion. I dream of an Egypt where everyone is simply Egyptian. This is not such a big of a dream. Egypt gave the world a great civilization thousands of years ago. And today, the Islamic reformation and the “Middle Eastern Age of Enlightenment” if they are to happen, there is no doubt that Egypt will be the place of their birth.

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Egypt and The Big Bad Wolf

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— By Alexandra Kinias —-

Feeling betrayed by the president they voted for a year earlier, millions of Egyptians marched on the streets of Cairo and main cities across Egypt on June 30th, on the first anniversary of President Morsi in office, demanding his resignation. The swarms of demonstrators were described as the biggest in the history of mankind. This uprising by the Egyptian people against this theocratic tyrant was undermined, misrepresented and mislabeled by the western media. Instead of exposing the true image of Morsi’s regime that was ready to devour the country, they stood in full support of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] against the people of Egypt.

It was shocking to see how the western media intentionally or deliberately dropped the ball on this historical event. And their obvious bias towards the ruling party of Egypt, in the days that followed, was shameful. They not only lost their credibility, but their dishonest reporting and perpetual support of the Islamic regime was perplexing to Egyptians. Lies and fabrication of news are the norm of Al Jazeera channel that had lost its objectivity long time ago by sealing its loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood. But Egyptians did not expect western ‘reputable’ news agencies to follow in the same pathetic path of cheap reporting. Whatever their motives were, they all achieved nothing but inflaming the wrath of Egyptians, as their reporters discredited their honorable revolt as a military coup.

The resilience and defiance of the Egyptian people was put in doubt by reporters, some of whom had been residing in Egypt for many years. Even as someone who hardly believes in conspiracy theories, I started questioning their motives. They could not have been ignorant or oblivious about what’s going on, and their integrity came in question. They should have known better than to portray the Egyptian people and the Egyptian army as the aggressor and the terrorists as the victims. Any first-year journalism student would have told them that it is unethical to report fake news and certainly not from a single perspective. Unless reporters and political analysts have been sleeping throughout Morsi’s year in power, there is no excuse for their denial or confusion about what was going on. And it is imperative to set the record straight.

1. Morsi came to power at a time when Egypt was at cross roads. A nation divided; healing from a revolution that took many lives and left people with uncertainties and confusion. He launched a presidential campaign that, a year later, could only be described as a campaign of lies and deception. A large section of Egyptians perceived him as the lesser of two evils and went out of their way to vote for him hoping to end the division and polarization of Egyptians in the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall, and to move the country forward. Egyptians had underestimated the evilness of the MB organization. Morsi in power demonstrated that he was not the president of all Egyptians, but of his own people. Egyptians felt betrayed and deceived. The country was polarized. And as he took Egypt and Egyptians on a slide toward a dark hole, the future looked bleaker than ever.

2. The failure in managing the country created daily crises for Egyptians. For the entire year, people suffered from continuous power and water outages, gas shortages, and price increases in all essential commodities from fuel to bread. The tourism industry died, the stock market lost a third of its value, the Egyptian pound lost 30% of its value against the US$, the rate of unemployment soared and the economy plummeted. MB sympathizers including the western media pointed fingers at the remnants of the Mubarak regime [Foloul] and the opposition and accused them of creating these crises to undermine Morsi. A lame excuse from the government to cover up its failures and ineffectiveness. One of the major setbacks in Morsi’s government was appointing worthless members of the MB organization in key positions, whose only merits were their blind loyalty to the organization rather than their experience or knowledge. It was only a matter of time before the country’s institutions collapsed.

It is important to understand the danger of Morsi’s decisions made during his year in power to comprehend how Egypt would have been dragged towards a doomed future, had his plans not been interpreted by Egyptians, who stood up against his regime to reclaim their homeland back from the fascist terrorist organization that hijacked it.

The MB came to power with the agenda to brotherhoodize Egypt, as a first step to take control over the Middle East. This objective had been sugarcoated and millions who did not fully grasp its graveness, were deceived by it, just like Red Riding Hood being deceived by the Big Bad Wolf sitting in her granny’s bed and wearing her cape. After their reign, the motives became clearer. But at the end, the Bad Wolf snarled exposing his ugly jaws. The MB didn’t waste time in dismantling the country’s civil institutions and replacing them with radicalized members who would carry out their plans.

Maybe the western media that was glorifying Morsi after he was ousted, as being the first democratically elected president, should watch a slideshow of one year in office to acknowledge his failure:

1. In his acceptance speech, moments after he was sworn in to office, Morsi urged the United States to release Omar Abel Rahman, the mastermind behind the World Trade Center attack in 1997. And in the months that followed, the Egyptian jail cells were emptied from all the terrorists, who were pardoned by an executive order, and the same jail cells were filled by thousands of young activists who opposed Morsi’s government. Among those who were released were the convicts behind the former president Sadat assassination. And it is notable to mention that these terrorists were invited to attend various official State events.

2. Morsi issued a presidential decree that gave him the power to control the three branches of the government; executive, judiciary and legislative. And in an amendment to that dictatorial decree, these powers would not be disputed in a court of law. Subsequently, he dissolved the Supreme Court, fired the Prosecutor General and replaced him with a MB member.

3. The constitutional committee that was selected to draft the new constitution was exclusive to members of Islamist groups and they included a clause that gave them absolute power to transcend Egypt towards an Islamic State, with no tolerance for women and minorities. And in a referendum that was not supervised by the judicial branch, the constitution passed and was approved by the president.

4. In total denial and disregard to the anger and frustration of the Egyptians, Morsi invites the leaders of various terrorists groups in a mass rally at the Cairo Stadium, and in a televised speech, he announced cutting relations with Syria, and declared Jihad against it and invited all who are willing to answer the call for Jihad to join.

5. The last nail in Morsi’s coffin was appointing the terrorist responsible for the 1997 Luxor massacre as a governor of this ancient historical city. Not only that, but he also appointed 17 Muslim Brotherhood members as governors to major governorates throughout the country.

The west has been introduced to the word Sharia, the Islamic law, and as it was explained, it is ferociously attacked in fear of its implementation in the western societies. Ironically, the same news channels that attack it, are defending the Islamist regime in Egypt that persist on forcefully implementing it on its people. And while doing so, the same news channels are turning a blind eye on the ties between the MB organization and Hamas, or that Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s number one man, had joined the MB at the age of 14.

The arrogance, distrust, ignorance, misguidance and delusions of the MB have blinded them from seeing who the Egyptian people are. Egyptians don’t need guidance to observe or practice their religion. They don’t need Islam to be enforced upon them. Egyptians have always been religious people and Islam had been integrated in the Egyptian society for more than fourteen centuries before the birth of the MB organization.

In exasperation, Egyptians took the streets on June 30 to topple Morsi not because they are against Islam, but because their country was in distress and their freedoms were at stake. They took it upon themselves to save their country from the hands of her kidnappers and to free themselves from the rule of a ruthless theocratic regime that would have kept them under siege. When Egyptians revolted to reclaim their country back, they requested protection of their armed forces from a home grown internal enemy that threatened not just their existence, but also their identity. As the momentum of events escalated in the streets, the army’s intervention became inevitable. And that’s what the western media stubbornly failed to see and insisted on labeling the Egyptian revolution a military coup.

No one remembers if the term “military coup” was used when Mubarak was ousted less than two years ago, and for a good reason; it was never used. But since Western media’s bias toward the MB is undeniable, they chose to use it to describe the June 30th revolution; shamelessly broadcast lies and fake news worldwide and despicably attacked the Egyptian armed forces.

Egyptians are already moving on. An interim government was appointed. There is no more time to waste. They have in their hands a country that is almost in ruins to build. They don’t care anymore if the west labels their revolution a military coup or an Easter bunny. All they care for is that they have freed their country from the claws of the Big Bad Wolf, and their hopes for a better future are already painting smiles on their faces. The nightmare is over.

The western media has a lot of fences to mend. Egyptians are kind hearted people. They will eventually forgive them, but they will never forget on whose side they stood. Hopefully they have learned their lesson; don’t mess with Egyptians.

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The Exodus

Original article appeared in Kalimat Magazine

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Jews of Egypt – Movie Poster

By: Alexandra Kinias

For more than half a century, stories about the injustices done to the Egyptian Jews were concealed from the public. Fabrication. That’s probably the word that best describes the news that has been fed to Egyptians over the decades to make them believe that the Jews voluntarily left the country. The facts were twisted and the victims were portrayed as enemies and perpetrators. Since history can be distorted, but never altered, the truth eventually began to surface, especially when the children of those who were expelled began asking for compensations for the properties and assets they were forced to leave behind. Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramsis brings some of these stories to life in his documentary, Jews of Egypt. The documentary has been screened at the Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the New York Film Festival and the Palm Springs Festival in California. In Egypt, homeland security objected to the screening of the movie, since it might endanger national security. But as it officially has no legal rights to ban movies and due to local and international pressure, the movie producers won the case against homeland security and the movie was screened, and was well received.

In Egypt, until the mid-twentieth century, Muslims, Christians and Jews were intricately woven into the fabric of the cosmopolitan society. They lived, worked and shared a country they all called home and in doing so, they also demonstrated acceptance and tolerance of the other, a practice so unfamiliar to the new generation. The eruption of nostalgia for the old days that Ramsis never lived through, but watched in black and white movies as he was growing up, inspired him to learn and investigate the other Egypt that had once been. I had a chance to interview Ramsis when he was in the United States, after attending the screening of his documentary, and question him about his career and his movie.

“I think I wanted to become a director when I was ten years old. I remember that particular week when I watched two movies that left a big impression on me – The Last Emperor by Bertolucci and Alexandria Forever and Ever by Youssef Chahine. The intense experience[s] of these two movies made me want to be a part of this universe. I vividly remember how Chahine’s film told the story of a director tormented by his desire for perfection in the movies. These two movies made me realise that filmmaking is what I wanted to do,” Ramsis says.

After graduating from the Higher Institute of Cinema in Cairo in 2000, he landed his dream job as an assistant director to Youssef Chahine where he worked with him for four years. “It was all fate. Chahine wanted assistants and I was available,” he says. In 2006, Ramsis directed his first film Edge of the World, and two years later he began working on the documentary Jews of Egypt. It took him three years to complete the project.

The documentary highlights an era in Egyptian history that Nasser’s regime wiped out from history books, an era that was eventually erased from the hearts and minds of Egyptians. Egyptian Jews were an integral part in all aspects of the Egyptian society, until the middle of the nineteenth century. Today, most Egyptians may not be aware that many businesses, which still carry the names of their founders, and many of their favourite singers and actors were Jewish. Their names are still remembered long after they were gone. No one had labelled them according to their faith and no one questioned their patriotism. They were loyal Egyptians as anyone else. However, with the constant brainwashing the Egyptians have been subjected to in the last six decades, their views toward the Egyptian Jews have become negative and aggressive.

After more than half a century living under the rule of Nasser and his successors, the very few Jews left in Egypt were reluctant to speak with Ramsis. They only opened up to him after he showed them the interviews with the Egyptian Jews he met in France. The documentary is a chain of a heart-wrenching testimonials immersed in sorrow, sadness, nostalgia, and perpetual love to a place that was once called home and to a citizenship they were forced to give up.

Following Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956 and the escalation of events that led to the tripartite invasion by England, France and Israel, which resulted in the expulsion of both English and French nationals and the confiscation of their assets, the Egyptian Jews also came under fire. Thousands were arrested, their businesses and assets sequestered and life became too intolerable for them to stay. Yet to be granted a laissez – passer, or one way exit visa, they had to sign papers revoking their Egyptian citizenship and giving up their right of return. Contrary to the belief of many, they left the country penniless and stateless with nothing but the clothes they wore and the memories of the land they would never be able to set foot in again.

Even though most of Ramsis’ experience in filmography is in feature movies, he consciously chose to make Jews of Egypt a documentary because of its controversial topic, especially at this time in the history of Egypt. “What happened to the Jews of Egypt has to be accurately portrayed or else it would lose its objectivity. Movies, even the ones that are inspired by true events, are still viewed as a fantasy. With the negative sentiments towards the Jews, such a movie is doomed to failure. A story about the Jews of Egypt is not yet ready to be made into a feature. Maybe one day after the message of this documentary is well received I may consider making a fictional film about it,” Ramsis explains.

With the rise of Islamists to power, Ramsis, like many others, is concerned about the future of minorities in Egypt, and rightfully so. He believes that it is unlikely that their fate will dwindle as happened to the Jews, yet he can’t help but think of the worst. When asked if the finished product of his documentary lived up to his expectations, Ramsis responded that it is still too early to judge. “The documentary so far is well received, nationally and internationally. I will not be able to judge its success until I sense its impact on the Egyptians audience. I made this film to show how the Egyptian people are becoming discriminate towards the minorities in Egypt and how dangerous this can be [for] our future. I would like to see its [the documentary] social impact and how it changes the views of people toward the other. If the documentary [achieves this] objective, then it has succeeded. However, I believe the movie may have started to change the image people had of the Jews. This was evident in the huge number of Egyptians and media press who attended the funeral of Carmen Weinstein, the late head of the Jewish community. For Egyptians to attend a funeral of a Jew prior to the screening of the movie was unheard of.”

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Article as appeared in Issue 8 – Kalimat Magazine

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Is it time for lslamic Reformation?

By: Alexandra Kinias

With the exposure of Political Islam’s ugly face, Egyptians became less reluctant to criticize the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and ideology [MB]. They no longer find it shameful or blasphemous to acknowledge that Islamists not only don’t they not represent Islam, but they also have hijacked, manipulated, misinterpreted and misrepresented their religion for their own gain.

The malicious plans of the Brotherhood-ization of Egypt were aborted when more than 30 million people defiantly took the streets on June 30th to reclaim the country back from the hands of the terrorists disguised in Islamic garbs. The vast majority of Egyptians do not believe in the alien rigorous doctrine imported from behind the dunes of the Arabian Sahara and which the MB forcefully tried to impose on them.

With the escalation of events in the days that followed the uprising, Egyptian Muslims are waking up to the realization that Political Islam is the real enemy of their religion. The violence, barbarism and savagery that took place in Egypt in the last few days in the name of religion was unprecedented. This war against Egyptians is fought by MB brainwashed followers to impose their brand of religion on the people.

With this chapter almost ready to be closed, the grounds have never been as fertile to sow the seeds of Islamic Reformation. It was no secret that Islamists used veiling of women as a symbol of Political Islam. Veiling is their Islamo-meter, which they use to monitor their influence and infiltration into the Egyptian society and around the world.

Given that, the voluntarily removal of the veil, which found its way on the heads of women after being brainwashed into believing that it is an Islamic obligation, will be the sign that they are truly losing ground.

Let us hope that the Age of Enlightenment has begun.

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At Night, They Dance

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Movie Poster

At Night, They Dance (Documentary, Canada)

Directors: Isabelle Lavigne, Stephane Thibault
Sales: Autlook Filmsales, Vienna
Production: Les Films du Tricycle
Producer: Lucie Lambert,
Director of photography: Stephane Thibault
Music: Benoit Charest
Editor: Rene Roberge
No rating: 80 minutes

By Alexandra Kinias —

At Night, They Dance, exposes a slice of the Egyptian society that lives and works in its shadows. The title successfully depicts the essence of the documentary. The belly dancing dynasty, which the documentary brings its story to life, revolves around the profession that its members performed at night. Reda, the 42 years old matriarch mother of seven who was widowed five months before the documentary was filmed, was once a belly dancer herself. After she retired from the business, she passed the torch to three of her daughters and acts now as their manager.

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Bossy getting ready for a job

The documentary is culturally shocking and emotionally painful. What makes it intriguing is that it discloses a taboo subject in the Egyptian conservative society, which was never captured before. Reda’s daughters dance in revealing costumes. With gold bracelets jingling around their wrists and cigarettes burning between their lips, they mingle openly with men. A girl returning home at the crack of dawn seems totally acceptable, or so it is portrayed.

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Fifteen years old Hind

The unscripted film floats between a documentary and a reality television show. With its loose structure and no narration, we are introduced to the characters and their stories from conversations between them and the people they interact with. Reda and her brood live in a narrow apartment located in a heavily populated slum of Cairo, a place where residents are protected from the eyes of the outside society and the law enforcement. Through the limited space, the camera wanders between two rooms scarce of furniture, yet crowded with their inhabitants and guests. Not paying much attention to the camera filming them, the women openly talk about their lives and problems. Their words are expressed in vocabulary rarely used in Egyptian cinema.

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Reda on the phone

Reda conducts business on the cell phone from a plastic rug on the floor while surrounded by her family and her five years old son who parades around the house stark naked, in every scene filmed indoors. The mother of this controversial brood, who is also a divorcee, spends a great deal of her time attacking or defending her daughters. The documentary doesn’t give any explanation about their past lives and nothing is exposed about their present that has no direct relation to their profession. Amira, the eldest daughter doesn’t show up to work because sometimes she is stoned.  After she lost custody of her child to her ex-husband, Amira found comfort in drugs. Bossy, is a sweetheart, but a lazy girl who often misses work even after she gets paid. Hind, the fifteen years old is having a relationship with a married man whose protection she seeks when she is out late at night.

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The documentary takes place between the walls of their house and the street where they dance. It was mentioned that they dance in weddings, but it looked more like an open air nightclub where men sat around tables set between buildings and watched the show. Reda and her daughters are essential components in an industry that depends heavily on them. Costume designers and rentals, hair dressers, agents and musicians, all depend on Reda’s clan.

The faint traces of another life’s beauty are evident in Reda’s face that is withered beyond her years. Driven by poverty, she is trapped in a cycle where she has to keep going for the sake of her family. The message portrayed in the documentary overshadows any flows in its production. Everything is dwarfed next to the powerful stories of the women’s survival. There are no men in their lives they can depend on. The single phone call not related to a job was to Hind’s father, Reda’s ex-husband. She asks him to bail Hind who was busted on her way back at night, but he declines to do so.

At Night, They Dance, raises a lot of questions and leaves the viewer curious to learn more about these women. There is an interesting paradox about their profession and their place in society. Growing up in a culture where women are viewed to be the reason for men’s sins and thus must be covered up, these girls dance to men in revealing costumes that show more than they cover. These contradictions are not just confusing for them, but also must fill them with guilt about their gender and their whole existence believing that they are source of men’s temptations.

The documentary gave us a glimpse of their lives, without probing into their past or future and what they want out of life. They are living from day to day and may not even have a vision of a future. They seem to accept with their situation and circumstances. They neither complain nor question their existence, yet there is sadness in their eyes. It was sad to see how they never smiled, not even when dancing on stage, which made me wonder if they are even aware that another life exists outside their cheap costumes and under their heavy make-up and wigs.

To watch At Night, They Dance trailer click here.

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