The Best Of Egyptian Cinema





The Yacoubian Building (2006)

Egyptian cinema: Top 10 Films of all time

Sherif Awad
The history of Egyptian goes back to the year 1896, when, on the 5th of November, spectators attended the first film screening in Alexandria. On the 28th of November of the same year, the first film screening in the Egyptian capital Cairo took place at Hamam Schneider Hall where 15 motion pictures of landscapes were shown for the attendees. The following year, the first film theatre called Lumière Cinématographe opened in Alexandria and then in Cairo. In March 10, Monsieur Promio, envoy of Lumière Company in France, started to shoot some first films of some landscapes in Egypt. This date is considered to be the beginning of the Egyptian cinema.
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.
In 1917, 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. Egyptian cinema became the leading industry in the Middle East with 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.
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. By the 1970s, Egyptian films struck a balance between politics and entertainment.
Since the 1990s, Egypt's cinema has gone in separate directions. Smaller art films attract some international attention but sparse attendance at home. A few productions, such as 2003's Sleepless Nights, intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples and 2006's The Yacoubian Building bridged this divide through their combination of high artistic quality and popular appeal.
In 2006, the film 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.
Since the revolution of 2011 in Egypt, the film production was affected in both quantity and quality. The number of feature films destined for theatrical release decreased due the economic status of the country and also due to many months of curfew that affected the numbers of theatrical screening per day and hence the box office receipts of any released film. As for the quality, most of the feature films were commercial and content-free which made the majority of film critics and viewers complain.  However, another group of independently produced film played at international film festivals while some of them getting good reviews and awards.

Al-Ard (The Land, 1969)
Director: Youssef Chahine,
Based on a popular novel by Abdel Rahman al-Sharqawi, the film narrates the conflict between peasants and their landlord in the 1930s, and explores the complex relation between individual interests and collective responses to oppression. The center character is Mohamed Abousweylam (Mahmoud Melegy), who is trying to unite the others to object the construction of a highway that will split the land into two parts. When the situation is complicated, the government sends Special Forces in order to control the village then declare a curfew. As Abousweylam continues to lead the opposition, the officers decide to drag him by a running horse across the land to terrorize the rest of the people…

Al-Azema (The Will, 1939)
Director: Kamal Selim
The romantic drama paints a vivid picture of the economic crisis that ravaged Egypt in the 1930s.A young couple, Mohamed and Fatima, played by Hussein Sedky and Fatma Roshdy, fall in love and get married. However, their bliss is cut short when Mohamed loses his job then forced to work as a fabric salesman without telling his wife. Some of the neighbors then scheme to get Fatima to see her husband in his new job working as a fabric salesman which leads to their divorce…

Sawaq al-Autobus (Autobus Driver, 1982)
Director : Atef El-Tayeb
This drama depicts the social changes in the 1980s  through Hassan (Nour El-Sherif) who works as an autobus driver during the day and as a taxi driver at night. He is the only brother of five daughters, and his father owns a carpentry shop. Because of the negligence of one of his brothers-in-law, the shop faces auction sales due to tax evasion.  Hassan tries hard to rescue the shop and his father’s reputation by asking his richer sisters and brothers-in law but his efforts go in vain.  


Rudda kalbi (Bring Back My Heart Again, 1958)
Director: Ezzel Dine Zulficar
Before the 1952 revolution, Egypt was still a kingdom. Al-Rayes gardener works at the palace of the royal family without knowing that son Ali (Shukri Sarhan) is in love with the princess Indjy since their childhood. But when Indjy’s brother discovers the romance, Al-Rayes is expelled from his job and Indjy accept to get married to a royalty to protect Ali from her brother. Years later, after the 1952 revolution, Egypt became a republic. Ali became is heading a Committee for the confiscation of the property of the royals. He returns to the palace the reunites with Indjy. Their love survives the years…

Zaygaty Wal-Kalb (My Wife and the Dog, 1971)
Director: Said Marzouk
In this classic film about jealousy without any proof, Mursi suspects his wife Soad of having a torrid affair with his coworker Noor. Before marriage Mursi used to have many relationships which made think that all men, including Noor, are like him. While at the night shift, Mursi sends to pick up some of his stuff from home. When Noor returns, Mursi starts to suspect that Noor took advantage of his wife. Night and day, Mursi imagines that Noor and Soad make a fool out of him. His life becomes a daily nightmare…

Al-Souq Al-Sawdaa (The Black Market, 1945)
Kamel El-Telmessany
During WWII, in one Cairo neighborhood, Sayed tries to earn extra money by hiding some merchandise in order to sell it later the black market. His son-in-law Hamed (Emad Hamdy) discovers the hidden stores but thinks twice before calling the authorities. Soon, merchants across the neighborhood gather to put an end to Sayed’s monopolies…

Al-Leb Maa al-Kobar (Playing with the Big Ones, 1991)
Hassan Bahloul (Adel Imam) is an unemployed man who pretends he can predict crimes and incidents before they occur. A police officer (Hussein Fahmi) follows Hassan’s leads while trying to find the truth behind his so-called clairvoyance. Meanwhile, Hassan continues to say that he can see the future in his dreams….


The Yacoubian Building (2006)
Director Marwan Hamed
Set in 1990 at about the time of the first Gulf War, the film is a portrayal of modern Egyptian society at downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actually exists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifying location in which most of the primary characters either live or work. Among them, Zaki Pasha el Dessouki (Adel Emam), a wealthy and elderly foreign-educated engineer who spends most of his time pursuing women; Taha el Shazli (Mohamed Imam), the son of the building doorman, who excels in school but finds out that his success is bounded by his class of society.

The Night of Counting the Years (1969)
Director: Shadi Abdel Salam
Set in 1881, before a year of British colonial rule, it is based on the true story of Abd el-Rasuls, an Upper-Egyptian clan that had been robbing mummies then selling them on the illicit antiquities black market. After a conflict within the clan, one of its members goes to the police, helping the Antiquities Service find the cache.
Sahar al-Lyaly (Sleepless Night, 2003)
Director: Hany Khalifa
The film revolves around four couples who are each other friends: There is Khaled the flirty and his naïve wife Perry; Sameh and his girlfriend Inas; Amr and his rich wife Farah; Ali who suffers from sexual impotency which affects his wife Moushira to develop fantasies revolving another handsome young man.


<!-- JSON-LD markup generated by Google Structured Data Markup Helper. --> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context" : "http://schema.org", "@type" : "Article", "name" : "The Best Of Egyptian Cinema", "author" : { "@type" : "Person", "name" : "Sherif Awad" }, "image" : "https://assets.rbl.ms/10394935/980x.jpg", "articleSection" : "Labels: OkayAfrica Articles", "articleBody" : "The history of Egyptian goes back to the year 1896, when, on\nthe 5th of November, spectators attended the first film screening in\nAlexandria. On the 28th of November of the same year, the first film screening\nin the Egyptian capital Cairo took place at Hamam Schneider Hall where 15\nmotion pictures of landscapes were shown for the attendees. The following year,\nthe first film theatre called Lumière Cinématographe opened in Alexandria and\nthen in Cairo. In March 10, Monsieur Promio, envoy of Lumière Company in\nFrance, started to shoot some first films of some landscapes in Egypt. This\ndate is considered to be the beginning of the Egyptian cinema.<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nWhile a limited number of silent films were made in Egypt\nfrom 1896 (with 1927&#39;s <I>Layla</I> notable as the first full-length feature),\nCairo&#39;s film industry became a regional force with the coming of sound. Between\n1930 and 1936, various small studios produced at least 44 feature films. In\n1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as the\nleading Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood&#39;s major studios, a role the company\nretained for three decades. </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nIn 1917, director Mohamed Karim established a production\ncompany in Alexandria. The company produced two films: <I>Dead Flowers</I> and <I>Honor\nthe Bedouin</I>, which were shown in the city of Alexandria in early 1918.<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nSince then, more than 4000 films have been produced in\nEgypt, three quarters of the total Arab production. Egyptian cinema became the leading\nindustry in the Middle East with the 1940s and 1950s are generally considered\nthe golden age of Egyptian cinema. As in the West, films responded to the\npopular imagination, with most falling into predictable genres (happy endings\nbeing the norm), and many actors making careers out of playing strongly typed\nparts. </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nPolitical changes in Egypt after the overthrow of King\nFarouk in 1952 initially had little effect on Egyptian film. The Nasser regime\nsought control over the industry only after turning to socialism in 1961. By 1966,\nthe Egyptian film industry had been nationalized. By the 1970s, Egyptian films\nstruck a balance between politics and entertainment. </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nSince the 1990s, Egypt&#39;s cinema has gone in separate\ndirections. Smaller art films attract some international attention but sparse\nattendance at home. A few productions, such as 2003&#39;s <I>Sleepless</I> <I>Nights</I>,\nintertwined stories of four bourgeois couples and 2006&#39;s <I>The Yacoubian\nBuilding</I> bridged this divide through their combination of high artistic\nquality and popular appeal.<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nIn 2006, the film <I>Free Times</I> was released. A social\ncommentary on the decline of Egyptian youth, the film was produced on a\nlow-budget and with the attendant low production values. The film, however,\nbecame a success. Its controversial subject matter, namely, the sexual\nundertones in today&#39;s society, was seen as confirmation that the industry was\nfinally beginning to take risks.<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nSince the revolution of 2011 in Egypt, the film production\nwas affected in both quantity and quality. The number of feature films destined\nfor theatrical release decreased due the economic status of the country and\nalso due to many months of curfew that affected the numbers of theatrical\nscreening per day and hence the box office receipts of any released film. As\nfor the quality, most of the feature films were commercial and content-free\nwhich made the majority of film critics and viewers complain.<SPAN style=\"mso-spacerun: yes;\">  </SPAN>However, another group of independently\nproduced film played at international film festivals while some of them getting\ngood reviews and awards. </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Al-Ard (The Land, 1969)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Director: Youssef Chahine, </B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nBased on a popular novel by Abdel Rahman al-Sharqawi, the\nfilm narrates the conflict between peasants and their landlord in the 1930s,\nand explores the complex relation between individual interests and collective\nresponses to oppression. The center character is Mohamed Abousweylam (Mahmoud\nMelegy), who is trying to unite the others to object the construction of a\nhighway that will split the land into two parts. When the situation is\ncomplicated, the government sends Special Forces in order to control the\nvillage then declare a curfew. As Abousweylam continues to lead the opposition,\nthe officers decide to drag him by a running horse across the land to terrorize\nthe rest of the people…<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Al-Azema (The Will, 1939)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Director: Kamal Selim<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nThe romantic drama paints a vivid picture of the economic\ncrisis that ravaged Egypt in the 1930s.A young couple, Mohamed and Fatima,\nplayed by Hussein Sedky and Fatma Roshdy, fall in love and get married.\nHowever, their bliss is cut short when Mohamed loses his job then forced to\nwork as a fabric salesman without telling his wife. Some of the neighbors then\nscheme to get Fatima to see her husband in his new job working as a fabric\nsalesman which leads to their divorce… </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN lang=\"FR\" style=\"mso-ansi-language: FR;\">Sawaq\nal-Autobus (Autobus Driver, 1982)<O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Director : Atef El-Tayeb<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nThis drama depicts the social changes in the 1980s <SPAN style=\"mso-spacerun: yes;\"> </SPAN>through Hassan (Nour El-Sherif) who works as an\nautobus driver during the day and as a taxi driver at night. He is the only\nbrother of five daughters, and his father owns a carpentry shop. Because of the\nnegligence of one of his brothers-in-law, the shop faces auction sales due to\ntax evasion. <SPAN style=\"mso-spacerun: yes;\"> </SPAN>Hassan tries hard to rescue\nthe shop and his father’s reputation by asking his richer sisters and brothers-in\nlaw but his efforts go in vain. <SPAN style=\"mso-spacerun: yes;\"> </SPAN><O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Rudda kalbi (Bring Back My Heart Again, 1958)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Director: Ezzel Dine Zulficar<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nBefore the 1952 revolution, Egypt was still a kingdom. Al-Rayes\ngardener works at the palace of the royal family without knowing that son Ali\n(Shukri Sarhan) is in love with the princess Indjy since their childhood. But\nwhen Indjy’s brother discovers the romance, Al-Rayes is expelled from his job\nand Indjy accept to get married to a royalty to protect Ali from her brother.\nYears later, after the 1952 revolution, Egypt became a republic. Ali became is\nheading a Committee for the confiscation of the property of the royals. He\nreturns to the palace the reunites with Indjy. Their love survives the years…<O:P></O:P></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Zaygaty Wal-Kalb (My Wife and the Dog, 1971)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Director: Said Marzouk<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nIn this classic film about jealousy without any proof, Mursi\nsuspects his wife Soad of having a torrid affair with his coworker Noor. Before\nmarriage <SPAN lang=\"EN-GB\" style=\"mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;\">Mursi used to have\nmany relationships which made think that all men, including Noor, are like him.\n</SPAN>While at the night shift, Mursi sends to pick up some of his stuff from\nhome. When Noor returns, Mursi starts to suspect that Noor took advantage of\nhis wife. Night and day, Mursi imagines that Noor and Soad make a fool out of\nhim. His life becomes a daily nightmare… </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Al-Souq Al-Sawdaa (The Black Market, 1945)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Kamel El-Telmessany<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\nDuring WWII, in one Cairo neighborhood, Sayed tries to earn\nextra money by hiding some merchandise in order to sell it later the black\nmarket. His son-in-law Hamed (Emad Hamdy) discovers the hidden stores but\nthinks twice before calling the authorities. Soon, merchants across the\nneighborhood gather to put an end to Sayed’s monopolies… </DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B>Al-Leb Maa al-Kobar (Playing with the Big Ones, 1991)<O:P></O:P></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Hassan Bahloul (Adel\nImam) is an unemployed man who pretends he can predict crimes and incidents\nbefore they occur. A police officer (Hussein Fahmi) follows Hassan’s leads\nwhile trying to find the truth behind his so-called clairvoyance. Meanwhile,\nHassan continues to say that he can see the future in his dreams…. </SPAN><SPAN dir=\"RTL\" lang=\"AR-EG\" style=\"font-family: &quot;arial&quot; , sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri;\"></SPAN></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">The Yacoubian\nBuilding (2006)</SPAN></B><B><SPAN dir=\"RTL\" lang=\"AR-EG\" style=\"font-family: &quot;arial&quot; , sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri;\"><O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN lang=\"EN-GB\" style=\"mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Director Marwan Hamed </SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Set in 1990 at about\nthe time of the first Gulf War, the film is a portrayal of modern Egyptian\nsociety at downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actually\nexists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifying\nlocation in which most of the primary characters either live or work.</SPAN> Among\nthem, <SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Zaki Pasha el Dessouki (Adel Emam),\na wealthy and elderly foreign-educated engineer who spends most of his time\npursuing women; Taha el Shazli (Mohamed Imam), the son of the building doorman,\nwho excels in school but finds out that his success is bounded by his class of\nsociety. </SPAN><SPAN dir=\"RTL\" lang=\"AR-EG\" style=\"font-family: &quot;arial&quot; , sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri;\"></SPAN></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<BR/></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">The Night of\nCounting the Years (1969)</SPAN></B><B><SPAN dir=\"RTL\" lang=\"AR-EG\" style=\"font-family: &quot;arial&quot; , sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri;\"><O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN lang=\"EN-GB\" style=\"mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Director: Shadi Abdel Salam<O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Set in 1881, before a\nyear of British colonial rule, it is based on the true story of Abd el-Rasuls,\nan Upper-Egyptian clan that had been robbing mummies then selling them on the\nillicit antiquities black market. After a conflict within the clan, one of its\nmembers goes to the police, helping the Antiquities Service find the cache.<O:P></O:P></SPAN></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Sahar al-Lyaly\n(Sleepless Night, 2003)<O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<B><SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">Director: Hany\nKhalifa </SPAN></B></DIV>\n<DIV class=\"MsoNormal\">\n<SPAN style=\"mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;\">The film revolves\naround four couples who are each other friends: There is Khaled the flirty and\nhis naïve wife Perry; Sameh and his girlfriend Inas; Amr and his rich wife\nFarah; Ali who suffers from sexual impotency which affects his wife Moushira to\ndevelop fantasies revolving another handsome young man.", "url" : "https://www.sherifawad-filmcritic.com/2018/04/blog-post_25.html", "publisher" : { "@type" : "Organization", "name" : "Sherif Awad-Film Critic-Egypt" } } </script>