Egyptian Cinema Resources

Egyptian cinema is Egypt's flourishing Egyptian Arabic-language film industry based in Cairo. Cairo is famous for its annual International Film Festival, which has been rated by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations as being among the 11 top class film festivals worldwide.There's also another festival held in Alexandria. Of the more than 4,000 short-and feature-length films made in Arabic-speaking countries since 1908, more than three-quarters were Egyptian.


While a limited number of silent films were made in Egypt (with 1927's Layla notable as the first full-length feature), Cairo's film industry became a regional force with the coming of sound. Between 1930 and 1936, various small studios produced at least 44 feature films. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as the leading Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood's major studios, a role the company retained for three decades.

"The golden age" and after

Stars Youssef Wahbi and Leila Mourad.The 1940s and 1950s are generally considered the "golden age" of Egyptian cinema. As in the West, films responded to the popular imagination, with most falling into predictable genres (happy endings being the norm), and many actors making careers out of playing strongly typed parts. In the words of one critic, "If an Egyptian film intended for popular audiences lacked any of these prerequisites, it constituted a betrayal of the unwritten contract with the spectator, the results of which would manifest themselves in the box office."

Political changes in Egypt after the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 initially had little effect on Egyptian film. The Nasser regime sought control over the industry only after turning to socialism in 1961. By 1966, the Egyptian film industry had been nationalized; in the words of Ahmed Ramzi, a leading man of the era, "it went to the dogs". The "heavy government hand" that accompanied nationalization of Egyptian film "stifled innovative trends and sapped its dynamism".

By the 1970s, Egyptian films struck a balance between politics and entertainment. Films such as 1972's Khalli Balak min Zouzou (Watch out for Zouzou), starring "the Cinderella of Arab cinema", Suad Husni, sought to balance politics and audience appeal. Zouzou integrated music, dance, and contemporary fashions into a story that balanced campus ferment with family melodrama.

The late 1970s and 1980s saw the Egyptian film industry in decline, with the rise of what came to be called "contractor movies". Actor Khaled El Sawy has described these as films "where there is no story, no acting and no production quality of any kind... basic formula movies that aimed at making a quick buck." The number of films produced also declined, from nearly 90 a year in the industry's prime to about a dozen in 1995.


Since the 1990s, Egypt's cinema has gone in separate directions. Smaller art films attract some international attention but sparse attendance at home. Popular films, often broad comedies such as the extremely profitable vehicles for comedian Mohamed Saad, battle to hold audiences either drawn to Western films or, increasingly, wary of the perceived immorality of film.

A few productions, such as 2003's Sahar El Layali (Sleepless Nights), intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples and 2006's Imarat Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) bridge this divide through their combination of high artistic quality and popular appeal.

In 2006, the film Awkat Faragh (Free Times) was released. A social commentary on the decline of the youth in Egypt, the film was produced on a low-budget and with the attendant low production values. The film, however, became a success. Its controversial subject matter, namely, the sexual undertones in today's society, was seen as a confirmation that the industry was finally beginning to take risks.

A major challenge facing Egyptian and international scholars, students, and fans of Egyptian film is the lack of resources in terms of published works, preserved and available copies of the films themselves, and development in Egypt of state and private institutions dedicated to the study and preservation of film. The Egyptian National Film Centre (ENFC), which theoretically holds copies of all films made after 1961, according to one Egyptian film researcher, "far from being a library, houses piles of rusty cans containing positive copies."

The year 2007, however, saw a considerable spike in the number of Egyptian movies made. In 1997, the number of Egyptian feature-length films created was 16; 10 years later, that number had risen to 40. Box office records have also risen significantly, as Egyptian movies earned around $50 million while American movies, by comparison, earned $10 million. The quality of movies has also improved both in terms of direction and plot.

Notable films

Transliteration Arabic Translation
Ayam El-Sadat أيام السادات The Days of Sadat
Doaa al-Karawan دعاء الكروان The Nightingale's Prayer
Halim حليم -
Al Haram الحرام The Sin
Malak al-Rahma ملاك الرحمة Angel of Mercy
Rossassa Fel Qalb رصاصة في القلب A Bullet in the Heart
Tharthara Fawq Al Neel ثرثرة فوق النيل Adrift on the Nile
Tito تيتو —
Al-Yateematain اليتيمتين The Two Orphans
El-Ard الأرض The Land
Yawm Said يوم سعيد Happy Day
El-Gezeera الجزيرة The Island
El-Nasser Salah El-Din الناصر صلاح الدين Saladin The Victorious
Al-Ayde Al-Na'ema الأيدى الناعمة The Soft Hands
Ard El-Khof أرض الخوف The Land Of Fear
El-Karnak الكرنك Karnak
Rud Qalbe رد قلبى Return My Heart Back
El-Tareeq Ela Eilat الطريق الى ايلات The Road To Eilat
Emaret Yaaqubian عماره يعقوبيان Yaaqubian bullding

Notable directors

Youssef Chahine
Ezzel Dine Zulficar
Salah Abu Seif
Kamal Al Sheikh
Mohamed Khan

Notable directors of photography

Tarek El-Telmissany
Mohsen Ahmed
Ramses Marzouk
Abdel Aziz fahmy
Saeed El-Shimy

Notable actors

Naguib Al Rihani
Aly El Kassar
Mohamed Abd El Wahab
Anwar Wagdi, and Layla Murad.
Tahiya Karioka
Ezz El Dine Zulfikkar
Omar Sharif, and Faten Hamama.
Youssef Wahbi, and Amina Rizk.
Hussein Riyad
Zaki Rostom
Mahmoud El Meleeguy
Nelly Mazloum
Farid Shawky
Mohamed Fawzy, and Madiha Youssry.
Ismail Yassin
Zeinat Sidqui
Yazan Kassisieh
Abd El Salam El Naboulsi
Abd El Fatah El Quossary
Farid El Attrash
Abdelhalim Hafez (El Andaleeb)
Rushdy Abaza
Samia Gamal
Kamal El Shinnawy
Ahmed Mazhar
Emad Hamdy
Salah Zulfikkar
Bola Badmash
Hend Rostom
Abd El Moneim Madbouly
Fouad Al Mohandes (El Ostaz), and Sheweekar
Souad Hosni (El Cindrella)
Nabila Ebeid
Nadia El Guendy
Adel Emam (El Zaeem)
Mahmoud Yassin
Nour El-Sherif
Mervat Amin
Ahmed Helmy
Khaled Abol Naga

Notable Film Critics

Samir Farid
Kamal Ramzy
Ahmed EL Hadary
Essam Zakareyya

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