Bahiga Hafez

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Bahiga Hafez
Born(1908-08-04)August 4, 1908
DiedDecember 13, 1983(1983-12-13) (aged 75)
Cairo, Egypt
OccupationActress, Composer, Director, Editor, Producer, Screenwriter
Years active1930s–1940s, 1966

Bahiga Hafez (Arabic: بهيجة حافظ‎, 13 December 1908 – 4 August 1983)[1] was an Egyptian screenwriter, composer, director, editor, producer and actress.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Personal life[edit]

Bahiga Hafez was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt to an aristocratic family with ties to monarchy.[6][8][9] Hafez began studying music in Cairo and later went on to study musical composition in Paris, studying piano at the conservatory.[6][8] Hafez could speak French, Arabic, and other languages.[7][8][9] Hafez was a Pacha heiress.[7][10][11][12][13]

After returning to Egypt, she lived in Cairo where she held literary salons.[6] Also upon her return to Egypt, Hafez released an album entitled Bahiga that played on the radio broadcast of the time.[8]

In 1930, she starred in the film Zeinab (1930). This caused her family to disinherit her, since working in cinema was seen as shameful at the time, especially for someone of her social status.[7]


Hafez is often cited as being one of the pioneering women in Egyptian cinema.[12]

She started her career in film as an actress, starring in the silent film Zeinab (1930), directed by Mohamed Karim,[2][7] which she also composed the score for.[5][9] Karim had been searching for a particularly feminine face for the title role, and after meeting Hafez at a party, offered her the role.[8] The film itself was quite popular.[8] Her involvement in this project sparked her interest in working in film.

Hafez founded the company Fanar Films in 1932.[6][14][15] With Fanar Films, Hafez co-directed the film al-Dahaya (1932), called "The Victims" in English, in which she also played a major role. She was also the costume designer, composer and editor for the film.[11] She remade the film 3 years later with sound.[6]

Hafez's first solo directed film was Laila bint al-sahara (Laila the Desert Girl),1937 (Alternative title: Laila bint al-Badawiyya[6]), but was not released until 1944 with a new title, Layla al-Badawiyya (Layla the Bedouin). Hafez worked as director, producer (with Fanar Films), co-screenwriter, composer, and lead actress.[5] The film was to be premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1938 but was banned from playing in Egypt due to its negative depictions of Persians, especially Persian royalty; it was to be released the same year in Egypt as the wedding of the Shah of Persia and the Princess Fawzia of Egypt.[6][9][12][15][15][16] Unfortunately, the film wasn't very successful.[11]

After not working in film for quite some time, Hafez was asked by director Salah Abou Seif to star as one of the Princesses in his film el Qâhirah talâtîn (1966). This marked Hafez's return to cinema, but also her last appearance.[11]

Unfortunately, much of her work as a filmmaker has been lost and only the mentions of her work remains.[4] A copy of her film al-Dahaya was found in 1995.[6]


On August 4, 2020, Google celebrated her 112th birthday with a Google Doodle.[17]


Year Title English Title Credit Notes
1930 Zeinab Actress, composeur Hafez's first acting role
1932 al-Dahaya The Victims[11] Actress, co-director, costume designer, editor, producer Silent Film - directed by Ibrahim Lama[9]
1934 el Ittihâm The Accusation[11] Actress, producer Directed by Mario Volpi[11]
1935 al-Dahaya The Victims Actress, director, producer Remake of the 1932 film with sound
1937 Laila bint al-sahara Laila the Desert Girl Actress, composeur, co-screenwriter, director, producer Alternative titles: Laila bint al-Badawiyya
1944 Layla al-Badawiyya Layla the Bedouin Actress, composeur, co-screenwriter, director, producer Re-release of the original movie
1947 Zahra Actress,[9] producer [8] Alternate title: Zohra[9]
1966 el Qâhirah talâtîn Cairo 30[11] Actress Directed by Salah Abou Seif


  1. ^ "The Plight of Women in Egyptian Cinema 1940s 1960s" (PDF).
  2. ^ a b "Studio Misr, etc - Al-Ahram Weekly". Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  3. ^ "Women's Films and Social Change". Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  4. ^ a b Knott, Matthew Hammett. "Heroines of Cinema: 9 Things We Could Learn From Taking a Global Perspective on Women Directors". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  5. ^ a b c Leaman, Oliver (2003-12-16). Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. ISBN 9781134662517.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hillauer, Rebecca (2005-01-01). Encyclopedia of Arab Women Filmmakers. American Univ in Cairo Press. ISBN 9789774249433.
  7. ^ a b c d e Hottell, Ruth A.; Pallister, Janis L. (2011-09-16). Noteworthy Francophone Women Directors: A Sequel. Lexington Books. ISBN 9781611474442.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "SIS Bahiga Hafez". Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Armes, Roy (2008-01-01). Dictionary of African Filmmakers. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253351166.
  10. ^, Institut National de l'Audiovisuel –. "In front of the Mirror: the filmmaker Bahiga Hafez". Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bahiga Hafez, AlexCinema". Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  12. ^ a b c Nelmes, Jill; Selbo, Jule (2015-09-29). Women Screenwriters: An International Guide. Springer. ISBN 9781137312372.
  13. ^ Smither, Roger B. N. (2002-01-01). This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film. Federation Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF). ISBN 9782960029604.
  14. ^ Women and Film. Women & Film. 1973. p. 90.
  15. ^ a b c Aghacy, Samira (2015-03-01). Writing Beirut: Mappings of the City in the Modern Arabic Novel. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9781474403467.
  16. ^ Nelmes, Jill; Selbo, Jule (2015-09-29). Women Screenwriters: An International Guide. Springer. ISBN 9781137312372.
  17. ^ "Bahiga Hafez's 112th Birthday". Google. 4 August 2020.