Cinema of Egypt

Cinema of Egypt
Number of screens 294 (2010)[1]
  Per capita 0.4 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Main distributors The Trinity: (Nasr - Oscar - El Massah)
Al Arabia Cinema Company[2]
Produced feature films (2005-2009)[3]
Total 42 (average)
Number of admissions (2010)[4]
Total 31,000,000
Gross box office (2010)[4]
Total $74.7 million

The cinema of Egypt refers to the flourishing Egyptian Arabic-language film industry based in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Since 1976, Cairo has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations.[5] There is 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.



Movie poster of the Egyptian film Yahya el hub (1938).

While a limited number of silent films were made in Egypt from 1896 (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.[6]

Historians disagree in determining the beginning of cinema in Egypt, there are those who said that beginning in 1896 with the first film watched in Egypt, while others thought that the beginning of cinema in the June 20, 1907 with the a short documentary film about the visit of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II to the Institute of Mursi Abul-Abbas in Alexandria. In 1917, the director Mohamed Karim established a production company in Alexandria. The company produced two films: Dead Flowers and Honor the Bedouin, which were shown in the city of Alexandria in early 1918.

Since then, more than 4000 films have been produced in Egypt, three quarters of the total Arab production. Egypt is the most productive country in the Middle East in the field of film production, and the one with the most developed media system.

The Golden Age

Movie poster of the Egyptian film Berlanti (1944).

The 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s 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."[7]

In 1940,[8] the entrepreneur and translator Anis Ebeid established "Anis Ebeid Films", as the first subtitling company in Egypt and the Middle East, bringing hundreds of American and World movies to Egypt. Later he entered the movie distribution business too.[9]

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.[10] By 1966, the Egyptian film industry had been nationalized. As is the case regarding all matters during that period, diametrical opinions can be found about Cinema industry then. In the words of Ahmed Ramzi, a leading man of the era, "it went to the dogs".[11] The "heavy government hand" that accompanied nationalization of Egyptian film "stifled innovative trends and sapped its dynamism".[10] However, considering a rather modern moderate review like that given by Dubai International Film Festival,[12] Most of the 44 Egyptian films featuring in the best 100 Arab films of all time were produced during that period. Notable titles included The Night of Counting The Years, Cairo Station and The Postman.

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.[13]

Transitional period

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 100 movies a year in the industry's prime to about a dozen in 1995. Throughout most of 1980, the West German filmmaker Teod Richter worked in Cairo filming what would become his last film, the 248 minute silent feature "Memory Through Tales Told".[14]

This lasted until summer 1997, with "Ismailia Rayeh Gayy" (translation: Ismailia back and forth). The comedy shocked the cinema industry enjoying unparalleled success and providing large profits for the producers, introducing Mohammed Fouad (a famous singer) and Mohammed Henedy a rather unknown actor who then became the number one comedian star. Building on the success of that movie, several comedy films were released in the following years


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 What A Lie!, and the extremely profitable works of comedian Mohamed Saad, battle to hold audiences either drawn to Western films or, increasingly, wary of the perceived immorality of film.[10]

A few productions, such as 2003's Sahar el Layali (Sleepless Nights), intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples[15] 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 Egyptian youth, 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 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, is according to one Egyptian film researcher, "far from being a library, houses piles of rusty cans containing positive copies."[16]

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.


Since 1976, Cairo has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations.[5] There is 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.

Notable films

Transliteration Year Arabic Translation Director
Abi foq al-Shagara[17] (1969)ابي فوق الشجرة My Father above the Tree Hussein Kamal
Afarit el-asphalt[18] (1996)عفاريت الاسفلت The Asphalt boogymen Oussama Fawzi
Ali Baba wa Al arbain haramee[19] (1942)علي بابا والاربعين حراميAli Baba and The Forty Thieves Togo Mizrahi
Ana Horra (1959)أنا حرة I Am Free Salah Abu Seif
Arak el-balah[20] (1998) عرق البلح Date Wine Radwan El-Kashef
Ard El-Khof[21] (1999)ارض الخوفThe Land Of Fear Daoud Abdel Sayed
Ard, El[22] (1969)الارضThe Land Youssef Chahine
Asfour, Al[23] (1972) العصفورThe Sparrow Youssef Chahine
Awdat al ibn al dal[24] (1976)عودة الابن الضالThe Return of the Prodigal Son Youssef Chahine
Awlad Masr[25] (1933)أولاد مصرSons of Egypt Togo Mizrahi
Ayam El-Sadat (2001)أيام الساداتThe Days of Sadat Mohamed Khan
Ayde Al-Na'ema, El (1963)الأيدي الناعمةThe Soft Hands Mahmoud Zulfikar
Azima, El[26] (1939) العزيمة The Will Kamal Selim
Bab el shams (2004)باب الشمسThe Gate of Sun Yousry Nasrallah
Bab El-Hadid (1958) باب الحديدCairo Station Youssef Chahine
Baheb el cima (2004)بحب السيماI Love Cinema Oussama Fawzi
Bahths an Al-Sayyid Marzuq, Al (1990) البحث عن السيد مرزوق The Search for Sayed Marzouk Daoud Abdel Sayed
Baree', El (1988)البرئThe Innocent Atef El-Tayeb
Barsoum Yabhas Aen Wazifa (1923)برسوم يبحث عن وظيفةBarsoum Looking for a Job Mohamed Bayoumi
Bidaya wa Nihaya (1960) بداية ونهايةA Beginning and an End Salah Abu Seif
Boustaguy, Al (1968) البوسطجيThe Postman Hussein Kamal
Darb al-mahabil (1955)درب المهابيلThe Path of Mahabil Tawfik Saleh
Doaa al-Karawan (1959) دعاء الكروانThe Nightingale’s prayer Henry Barakat
Eisharit morour (1995) إشارة مـرور Traffic Light Khairy Beshara
Fi bilad Tout Ankh Amoun (1923) في بلاد توت عنخ أمونIn the Land of Tutankhamun
Gannat al shayateen (1999)جنة الشياطينThe Paradise of the Fallen Angels Oussama Fawzi
Gezeera, El (2007)الجزيرةThe Island Sherif Arafa
Ghazal Al Banat (1949) غزل البناتThe Flirtation of Girls Anwar Wagdi
Haram, Al (1965)الحرامThe Sin Henry Barakat
Hassan wi Mor'os (2008) حسن ومرقص Hassan & Marcus Ramy Emam
Haya aw Maut (1954) حياة او موتLife or Death Kamal El Sheikh
Ikhtiyar, Al (1970) الإختيارThe choice Youssef Chahine
Irhab wal kabab, Al (1992) الإرهاب والكبابTerrorism and Kebab Sherif Arafa
Iskanderija... lih? (1978) الإسكندرية... ليه؟ Alexandria... Why? Youssef Chahine
Karnak, Al (1975) الكرنك Karnak Ali Badrakhan
Kit Kat, El (1991)الكيت كاتThe Kit Kat Daoud Abdel Sayed
Laabet el sitt (1946)لعبة الست The Lady's Puppet Waley-ElDin Sameh
Laila (1927) ليلى Laila
Malak al-Rahma (1946) ملاك الرحمة Angel of Mercy Youssef Wahbi
Medina, El[27] (1999)المدينةThe City Yousry Nasrallah
Mummia, Al (1975) المومياء The Mummy (The Night of Counting the Years) Shadi Abdel Salam
Mustahil, El (1966) المستحيل The Impossible Hussein Kamal
Nasser Salah El-Din, El (1963)الناصر صلاح الدينSaladin The Victorious Youssef Chahine
Omaret yakobean (2006)عمارة يعقوبيانYaaqubian building Marwan Hamed
Rossassa Fel Qalb (1944)رصاصة في القلبA Bullet in the Heart Mohammed Karim
Rudda kalbi (1958)رُدَّ قلبيReturn My Heart Back Ezz-El-Din Zulfikar
Salama fi khair (1938) سلامة في خير Salama Is Fine Niazi Mostafa
Salamah (1945) سلامة Salamah Togo Mizrahi
Sawaq El-Autobis (1983) سواق الأوتوبيسThe Bus Driver Atef El-Tayeb
Shey min el khouf (1969)شئ من الخوف Some of the Fear Hussein Kamal
Sira' al-abtal (1962)صراع الأبطالStruggle of the Heroes Tawfik Saleh
Suq al-Soda, Al (1945)السوق السوداBlack Market Kamel El-Telmissany
Tharthara Fawq Al Neel (1971)ثرثرة فوق النيلAdrift on the Nile Hussein Kamal
Tooq wal Eswera, El (1986) الطوق والاسورةThe Collar and the Bracelet Khairy Beshara
Weda'an Bonapart (1985) وداعًا بوناپارتAdieu Bonaparte Youssef Chahine
Yateematain, Al (1949)[28] اليتيماتانThe Two Orphans Hassan Al Imam
Yawm al-Sadis, Al[29] (1986) اليوم السادسThe Sixth Day Youssef Chahine
Yawm Saeed[30] (1940)يوم سعيدHappy Day Mohammed Karim
Yom mor... Yom helw[31] (1988) يوم مر .. يوم حلوSweet Day, Bitter Day Khairy Beshara
Zawgat Ragol Mohim (1988) زوجة رجل مهمThe Wife of an Important Man Mohamed Khan
Zeinab[32] (1950)زينبZeinab Mohammed Karim
Zouga El tania, El (1967)الزوجة التانيةThe Second Wife Salah Abu Seif

Notable figures




Film critics

Music Composers

See also

In the press


  1. 1 2 "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. "Table 6: Share of Top 3 distributors (Excel)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  4. 1 2 "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  5. 1 2 Cairo Film Festival information.
  6. Darwish, Mustafa, Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 1998, Pp. 12–13.
  7. Farid, Samir, "Lights, camera...retrospection", Al-Ahram Weekly, December 30, 1999
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  10. 1 2 3 Farid, Samir, "An Egyptian Story", Al-Ahram Weekly, November 23–29, 2006
  11. Khairy, Khaireya, "Ahmed Ramzi: rendezvous at the snooker club", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 22, 2000
  13. Anis, Mouna, "Before the public gaze", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 28, 2001
  14. El Bakry, Rehab, "Reeling them in", Business Monthly, July 2006
  15. "Sahar el Layali", The New York Times, 2004
  16. El-Assyouti, Mohamed, "Forgotten memories",Al-Ahram Weekly, September 2, 1999

Further reading

External links

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