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.





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“articleBody” : “The history of Egyptian goes back to the year 1896, when, onnthe 5th of November, spectators attended the first film screening innAlexandria. On the 28th of November of the same year, the first film screeningnin the Egyptian capital Cairo took place at Hamam Schneider Hall where 15nmotion pictures of landscapes were shown for the attendees. The following year,nthe first film theatre called Lumière Cinématographe opened in Alexandria andnthen in Cairo. In March 10, Monsieur Promio, envoy of Lumière Company innFrance, started to shoot some first films of some landscapes in Egypt. Thisndate 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 Egyptnfrom 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. Betweenn1930 and 1936, various small studios produced at least 44 feature films. Inn1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as thenleading Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood&#39;s major studios, a role the companynretained for three decades. </DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>nIn 1917, director Mohamed Karim established a productionncompany in Alexandria. The company produced two films: <I>Dead Flowers</I> and <I>Honornthe 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 innEgypt, three quarters of the total Arab production. Egyptian cinema became the leadingnindustry in the Middle East with the 1940s and 1950s are generally considerednthe golden age of Egyptian cinema. As in the West, films responded to thenpopular imagination, with most falling into predictable genres (happy endingsnbeing the norm), and many actors making careers out of playing strongly typednparts. </DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>nPolitical changes in Egypt after the overthrow of KingnFarouk in 1952 initially had little effect on Egyptian film. The Nasser regimensought control over the industry only after turning to socialism in 1961. By 1966,nthe Egyptian film industry had been nationalized. By the 1970s, Egyptian filmsnstruck a balance between politics and entertainment. </DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>nSince the 1990s, Egypt&#39;s cinema has gone in separatendirections. Smaller art films attract some international attention but sparsenattendance 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 YacoubiannBuilding</I> bridged this divide through their combination of high artisticnquality and popular appeal.<O:P></O:P></DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>nIn 2006, the film <I>Free Times</I> was released. A socialncommentary on the decline of Egyptian youth, the film was produced on anlow-budget and with the attendant low production values. The film, however,nbecame a success. Its controversial subject matter, namely, the sexualnundertones in today&#39;s society, was seen as confirmation that the industry wasnfinally beginning to take risks.<O:P></O:P></DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>nSince the revolution of 2011 in Egypt, the film productionnwas affected in both quantity and quality. The number of feature films destinednfor theatrical release decreased due the economic status of the country andnalso due to many months of curfew that affected the numbers of theatricalnscreening per day and hence the box office receipts of any released film. Asnfor the quality, most of the feature films were commercial and content-freenwhich made the majority of film critics and viewers complain.<SPAN style=”mso-spacerun: yes;”>  </SPAN>However, another group of independentlynproduced film played at international film festivals while some of them gettingngood 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, thenfilm narrates the conflict between peasants and their landlord in the 1930s,nand explores the complex relation between individual interests and collectivenresponses to oppression. The center character is Mohamed Abousweylam (MahmoudnMelegy), who is trying to unite the others to object the construction of anhighway that will split the land into two parts. When the situation isncomplicated, the government sends Special Forces in order to control thenvillage 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 terrorizenthe 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 economicncrisis 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 tonwork as a fabric salesman without telling his wife. Some of the neighbors thennscheme to get Fatima to see her husband in his new job working as a fabricnsalesman 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;”>Sawaqnal-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 annautobus driver during the day and as a taxi driver at night. He is the onlynbrother of five daughters, and his father owns a carpentry shop. Because of thennegligence of one of his brothers-in-law, the shop faces auction sales due tontax evasion. <SPAN style=”mso-spacerun: yes;”> </SPAN>Hassan tries hard to rescuenthe shop and his father’s reputation by asking his richer sisters and brothers-innlaw 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-Rayesngardener works at the palace of the royal family without knowing that son Alin(Shukri Sarhan) is in love with the princess Indjy since their childhood. Butnwhen Indjy’s brother discovers the romance, Al-Rayes is expelled from his jobnand 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 isnheading a Committee for the confiscation of the property of the royals. Henreturns 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, Mursinsuspects his wife Soad of having a torrid affair with his coworker Noor. Beforenmarriage <SPAN lang=”EN-GB” style=”mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;”>Mursi used to havenmany 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 fromnhome. When Noor returns, Mursi starts to suspect that Noor took advantage ofnhis wife. Night and day, Mursi imagines that Noor and Soad make a fool out ofnhim. 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 earnnextra money by hiding some merchandise in order to sell it later the blacknmarket. His son-in-law Hamed (Emad Hamdy) discovers the hidden stores butnthinks twice before calling the authorities. Soon, merchants across thenneighborhood 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 (AdelnImam) is an unemployed man who pretends he can predict crimes and incidentsnbefore they occur. A police officer (Hussein Fahmi) follows Hassan’s leadsnwhile 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 YacoubiannBuilding (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 aboutnthe time of the first Gulf War, the film is a portrayal of modern Egyptiannsociety at downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actuallynexists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifyingnlocation in which most of the primary characters either live or work.</SPAN> Amongnthem, <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 timenpursuing 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 ofnsociety. </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 ofnCounting 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 anyear 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 thenillicit antiquities black market. After a conflict within the clan, one of itsnmembers 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-Lyalyn(Sleepless Night, 2003)<O:P></O:P></SPAN></B></DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>n<B><SPAN style=”mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;”>Director: HanynKhalifa </SPAN></B></DIV>n<DIV class=”MsoNormal”>n<SPAN style=”mso-bidi-language: AR-EG;”>The film revolvesnaround four couples who are each other friends: There is Khaled the flirty andnhis naïve wife Perry; Sameh and his girlfriend Inas; Amr and his rich wifenFarah; Ali who suffers from sexual impotency which affects his wife Moushira tondevelop fantasies revolving another handsome young man.”,
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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
Articles: 387