Cinema of Egypt

Cinema of Egypt
Cinema of Egypt
Cairo Film Festival
List of Egyptian films
Pre 1930

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.[1] 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.




Life in Egypt
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Human rights
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.[2]

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 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."[3]

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.[4] 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".[5] The "heavy government hand" that accompanied nationalization of Egyptian film "stifled innovative trends and sapped its dynamism".[4]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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 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.[4]

A few productions, such as 2003's Sahar el Layali (Sleepless Nights), intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples[8] 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."[9]

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.[citation needed] 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.[10] 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[11] (1969) ابي فوق الشجرة My Father above the Tree Hussein Kamal
Afarit el-asphalt[12] (1996) عفاريت الاسفلت The Asphalt boogymen Oussama Fawzi
Afrita hanem[13] (1949) عفريتة هانم Little Miss Devil Henry Barakat
Ali Baba wa Al arbain haramee[14] (1942) علي بابا والاربعين حرامي Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves Togo Mizrahi
Ana Horra (1959) أنا حرة I Am Free Salah Abu Seif
Arak el-balah[15] (1998) عرق البلح Date Wine Radwan El-Kashef
Ard El-Khof[16] (1999) ارض الخوف The Land Of Fear Daoud Abdel Sayed
Ard, El[17] (1969) الارض The Land Youssef Chahine
Asfour, Al[18] (1972) العصفور The Sparrow Youssef Chahine
Awdat al ibn al dal[19] (1976) عودة الابن الضال The Return of the Prodigal Son Youssef Chahine
Awlad Masr[20] (1933) أولاد مصر Sons of Egypt Togo Mizrahi
Ayam El-Sadat (2001) أيام السادات The Days of Sadat Mohamed Khan
Ayde Al-Na'ema, El (1963) الأيدي الناعمة The Soft Hands Mahmoud Zulfikar
Azima, El[21] (1939) العزيمة The Will Kamal Selim
Bab el shams (2004) باب الشمس The Gate of Sun Yousry Nasrallah
Bab El-Hadid (1958) باب الحديد Cairo Station Youssef Chahine
Baheb el cima (2004) بحب السيما I 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) البرئ The Innocent Atef El Tayeb
Barsoum Yabhas Aen Wazifa (1923) برسوم يبحث عن وظيفة Barsoum Looking for a Job Mohamed Bayoumi
Bidaya wa Nihaya (1960) بداية ونهاية A Beginning and an End
Boustaguy, Al (1968) البوسطجي The Postman
Darb al-mahabil (1955) درب المهابيل The Path of Mahabil
Doaa al-Karawan (1959) دعاء الكروان The Nightingale’s prayer
Eisharit morour (1995) إشارة مـرور Traffic Light
Fi bilad Tout Ankh Amoun (1923) في بلاد توت عنخ أمون In the Land of Tutankhamun
Gannat al shayateen (1999) جنة الشياطين The Paradise of the Fallen Angels
Genenet al asmak[22] (2008) جنينة الاسماك The Aquarium Yousry Nasrallah
Gezeera, El (2007) الجزيرة The Island
Ghazal Al Banat (1949) غزل البنات The Flirtation of Girls
Hadduta misrija (1982) حدوتة مصرية Egyptian Story
Halim (2006) حليم Halim
Hammam al-Malatily (1973) حمام الملاطيلي The Bathhouse of Malatily
Haram, Al (1965) الحرام The Sin
Hassan wi Mor'os (2008) حسن ومرقص Hassan & Marcus
Haya aw Maut (1954) حياة او موت Life or Death
Heya fawda (2007) هي فوضة This Is Chaos
Ikhtiyar, Al (1970) الإختيار The choice
Irhab wal kabab, Al (1992) الإرهاب والكباب Terrorism and Kebab
Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman (1990) الاسكندرية كمان وكمان Alexandria Again and Forever
Iskanderija... lih? (1978) الإسكندرية... ليه؟ Alexandria... Why?
Karnak, Al (1975) الكرنك Karnak
Kit Kat, El (1991) الكيت كات The Kit Kat
Laabet el sitt (1946) لعبة الست The Lady's Puppet
Laila (1927) ليلى Laila
Malak al-Rahma (1946) ملاك الرحمة Angel of Mercy
Marcides[23] (1993) مرسيدس mercedes Yousry Nasrallah
Medina, El[24] (1999) المدينة The City Yousry Nasrallah
Mummia, Al (1975) المومياء The Mummy
Mustahil, El (1966) المستحيل The Impossible
Nasser Salah El-Din, El (1963) الناصر صلاح الدين Saladin The Victorious
Omaret yakobean (2006) عمارة يعقوبيان Yaaqubian building
Rossassa Fel Qalb (1944) رصاصة في القلب A Bullet in the Heart
Rudda kalbi (1958) رُدَّ قلبي Return My Heart Back
Salama fi khair (1938) سلامة في خير Salama Is Fine
Salamah (1945) سلامة Salamah
Sarikat Sayfeya[25] (1988) سرقات صيفية Summertime thefts Yousry Nasrallah
Sawaq El-Autobis (1983) سواق الأوتوبيس The Bus Driver
Shahazon wa Nobalaa’ (1991) شحاذون ونبلاء Beggars and Noblemen
Shey min el khouf (1969) شئ من الخوف Some of the Fear
Sira' al-abtal (1962) صراع الأبطال Struggle of the Heroes
Sobyan wa banat[26] (1995) صبيان وبنات Boys and Girls Yousry Nasrallah
Suq al-Soda, Al (1945) السوق السودا Black Market
Tareeq Ela Eilat, El (1998) الطريق إلى إيلات The Road To Eilat
Tharthara Fawq Al Neel (1971) ثرثرة فوق النيل Adrift on the Nile Hussein Kamal
Tooq wal Eswera, El (1986) الطوق والاسورة The Collar and the Bracelet
Toul Omry (2008) طول عمري All My Life Maher Sabry
Weda'an Bonapart (1985) وداعًا بوناپارت Adieu Bonaparte Youssef Chahine
Yateematain, Al (1949)[27] اليتيماتان The Two Orphans Hassan Al Imam
Yawm al-Sadis, Al[28] (1986) اليوم السادس The Sixth Day Youssef Chahine
Yawm Saeed[29] (1940) يوم سعيد Happy Day Mohammed Karim
Yom mor... Yom helw[30] (1988) يوم مر .. يوم حلو Sweet Day, Bitter Day Khairy Beshara
Zawgat Ragol Mohim (1988) زوجة رجل مهم The Wife of an Important Man Mohamed Khan
Zeinab[31] (1925) زينب Zeinab Mohammed Karim
Zeinab[32] (1950) زينب Zeinab Mohammed Karim
Zouga El tania, El (1967) الزوجة التانية The Second Wife

Notable figures




Film critics

See also

In the press

The best of Egyptian cinema, the best 15 best Egyptian films of all time


  1. ^ Cairo Film Festival information.
  2. ^ Darwish, Mustafa, Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 1998, Pp. 12–13.
  3. ^ Farid, Samir, "Lights, camera...retrospection", Al-Ahram Weekly, December 30, 1999
  4. ^ a b c Farid, Samir, "An Egyptian Story", Al-Ahram Weekly, November 23–29, 2006
  5. ^ Khairy, Khaireya, "Ahmed Ramzi: rendezvous at the snooker club", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 22, 2000
  6. ^ Anis, Mouna, "Before the public gaze", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 28, 2001
  7. ^ El Bakry, Rehab, "Reeling them in", Business Monthly, July 2006
  8. ^ "Sahar el Layali", The New York Times, 2004
  9. ^ El-Assyouti, Mohamed, "Forgotten memories",Al-Ahram Weekly, September 2, 1999
  10. ^ Cairo Film Festival information.
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External links

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