ⓘ Cinema of Egypt
The cinema of Egypt refers to the flourishing film industry based in Cairo. Since 1976, the capital has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. There is also another festival held in Alexandria. Of the more than 4.000 short and feature-length films made in MENA region since 1908, more than three-quarters were Egyptian films.
1.1. History Beginnings
A limited number of silent films were made in Egypt beginning in 1896; 1927s Laila was notable as the first full-length feature. Cairos 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 Hollywoods major studios, a role the company retained for three decades.
Historians disagree in determining the beginning of cinema in Egypt. Some say in 1896, when the first film was watched in Egypt, while others date the beginning from 20 June 1907 with 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 Mohammed 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 4.000 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.
1.2. History The Golden Age
The 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s are generally considered the golden age of Egyptian cinema. In the 1950s, Egypts cinema industry was the worlds third largest. 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."
In 1940, 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.
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. As with all matters in that period, diametrical opinions can be found about the cinema industry then. 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". However, considering a rather modern moderate review like that given by Dubai International Film Festival, 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 1972s 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.
1.3. History 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 industrys prime to about a dozen in 1995. This lasted until summer 1997, when "Ismailia Rayeh Gayy" translation: Ismailia back and forth shocked the cinema industry, enjoying unparalleled success and large profits for the producers, introducing Mohamed Fouad a famous singer and Mohamed Henedi, then a rather unknown actor who later became the number one comedian star. Building on the success of that movie, several comedy films were released in the following years.
1.4. History Present
Since the 1990s, Egypts 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.
A few productions, such as 2003s Sahar el Layali Sleepless Nights, intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples and 2006s Imarat Yacoubian The Yacoubian Building bridge this divide through their combination of high artistic quality and popular appeal.
In 2006, the film Awkat Faragh Leisure Time was released. A social commentary on the decline of Egyptian youth, the film was produced on a low budget and had attendant low production values. The film, however, became a success. Its controversial subject matter, namely, the sexual undertones in todays society, was seen as confirmation that the industry was 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."
The year 2007, however, saw a considerable spike in the number of Egyptian films 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 films earned around $50 million while American films, by comparison, earned $10 million.
Since 1976, Cairo has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. Another festival is held in Alexandria.