Cinema of Egypt

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Egyptian Cinema
No. of screens221 (2015) [1]
 • Per capita0.4 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Main distributorsThe Trinity: (Nasr - Oscar - El Massah)
Cinema Masr
Studio Masr[2]
Produced feature films (2005–2009)[3]
Total42 (average)
Number of admissions (2015)[4]
Gross box office (2015)[4]
Total$267 million

The cinema of Egypt refers to the flourishing film industry based in Cairo which is known to be the Hollywood of the MENA region. Since 1976, the capital has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations.[5] There is also another 12 festivals. Of the more than 4,000 short and feature-length films made in MENA region since 1908, more than three-quarters were Egyptian films.[citation needed] Egyptian films are typically spoken in the Egyptian Arabic dialect.



Poster for the Egyptian film Yahya el hub (1938).

A limited number of silent films were made in Egypt beginning in 1896; 1927's Laila was 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.[6]

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.[citation needed]

The Golden Age[edit]

Poster for the Egyptian film Berlanti (1944).

The 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s are generally considered the golden age of Egyptian cinema. In the 1950s, Egypt's cinema industry was the world's third largest.[7] 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."[8]

In 1940,[9] the entrepreneur and translator Anis Ebeid established "Anis Ebeid Films", as the first subtitling company in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, bringing hundreds of American and World movies to Egypt. Later he entered the movie distribution business too.[10]

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.[11] 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".[12] The "heavy government hand" that accompanied nationalization of Egyptian film "stifled innovative trends and sapped its dynamism".[13] However, most of the 44 Egyptian films featuring in the best 100 Egyptian films list of all time were produced during that period. Notable titles included The Night of Counting The Years, Cairo Station, The Postman and Back Again.

Salah Zulfikar in the Egyptian film Saladin (1963).

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", Soad Hosny, sought to balance politics and audience appeal. Zouzou integrated music, dance, and contemporary fashions into a story that balanced campus ferment with family melodrama.[14]

Hassan Ramzi's 1975 Egyptian film Al-Rida’ al-Abyad (The White Gown) was released in the Soviet Union in 1976, selling 61 million tickets in the country. This made it the highest-grossing foreign film of the year and the seventh highest-grossing foreign film ever in the Soviet Union.[15][16] This also made it the highest-grossing Egyptian film of all time, with its Soviet ticket sales surpassing the worldwide ticket sales of all other Egyptian films.[17]

Transitional period[edit]

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. 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.


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 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.[11]

A few productions, such as 2003's Sahar el Layali (Sleepless Nights), intertwined stories of four bourgeois couples[18] 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 (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 today's 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."[19]

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.[citation needed]


Since 1952, Cairo has held The Catholic Center film festival. It is the oldest film festival in the Middle East and Africa. It is specialized in Egyptian Cinema. Since 1976, Cairo has held the annual Cairo International Film Festival, which has been accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations.[5] Another film festivals are held in Egypt including:

Notable films[edit]

Title Transliteration Year Director
My Father above the Tree[20] Abi foq al-Shagara 1969 Hussein Kamal
The Asphalt boogymen[21] Afarit el-asphalt 1996 Oussama Fawzi
Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves[22] Ali Baba wa Al Arbaeen harami 1942 Togo Mizrahi
I Am Free Ana Horra 1959 Salah Abu Seif
Date Wine[23] Arak el-balah 1998 Radwan El-Kashef
The Land Of Fear[24] Ard El-Khof 1999 Daoud Abdel Sayed
Al-Go'a Al-Go'a 1986 Ali Badrakhan
The Land[25] El Ard 1969 Youssef Chahine
The Sparrow[26] Al Asfour 1972 Youssef Chahine
The Return of the Prodigal Son[27] Awdat al ibn al dal 1976 Youssef Chahine
Sons of Egypt[28] Awlad Masr 1933 Togo Mizrahi
The Days of Sadat Ayam El-Sadat 2001 Mohamed Khan
The Soft Hands Al Ayde Al Na'ema 1963 Mahmoud Zulfikar
The Will[29] El Azima 1939 Kamal Selim
The Gate of Sun Bab el shams 2004 Yousry Nasrallah
Cairo Station Bab El-Hadid 1958 Youssef Chahine
I Love Cinema Baheb el cima 2004 Oussama Fawzi
The Search for Sayed Marzouk Al Bahths an Al Sayyid Marzuq 1990 Daoud Abdel Sayed
The Innocent El Baree' 1988 Atef El-Tayeb
Barsoum Looking for a Job Barsoum Yabhas Aen Wazifa 1923 Mohamed Bayoumi
A Beginning and an End Bidaya wa Nihaya 1960 Salah Abu Seif
The Postman Al Boustaguy 1968 Hussein Kamal
The Path of Mahabil Darb al-mahabil 1955 Tawfik Saleh
The Nightingale's prayer Doaa al-Karawan 1959 Henry Barakat
Traffic Light Eisharit morour 1995 Khairy Beshara
In the Land of Tutankhamun Fi bilad Tout Ankh Amoun 1923 Mohamed Bayoumi
The Paradise of the Fallen Angels Gannat al shayateen 1999 Oussama Fawzi
The Island El Geezera 2007 Sherif Arafa
The Flirtation of Girls Ghazal Al Banat 1949 Anwar Wagdi
The Sin Al Haram 1965 Henry Barakat
Chafika et Metwal Shafika w Metwally 1978 Ali Badrakhan
Hassan and Marcus Hassan wi Mor'os 2008 Ramy Emam
Life or Death Haya aw Maut 1954 Kamal El Sheikh
The Choice Al Ikhtiyar 1970 Youssef Chahine
Terrorism and Kebab Al Irhab wal kabab 1992 Sherif Arafa
Alexandria... Why? Iskanderija ... lih? 1978 Youssef Chahine
Karnak Al Karnak 1975 Ali Badrakhan
The Kit Kat El Kit Kat 1991 Daoud Abdel Sayed
The Lady's Puppet Laabet el sitt 1946 Waley-ElDin Sameh
Leila 1927 Aziza Amir
Angel of Mercy Malak al-Rahma 1946 Youssef Wahbi
The City[30] El Medina 1999 Yousry Nasrallah
The Night of Counting the Years Al Mummia 1975 Shadi Abdel Salam
The Impossible El Mustahil 1966 Hussein Kamal
Saladin The Victorious El Nasser Salah El-Din 1963 Youssef Chahine
Yaaqubian building Omaret yakobean 2006 Marwan Hamed
A Bullet in the Heart Rossassa Fel Qalb 1944 Mohammed Karim
Return My Heart Back Rudda Kalbi 1958 Ezz-El-Din Zulfikar
Salama is Okay Salama fi khair 1938 Niazi Mostafa
Salamah 1945 Togo Mizrahi
The Bus Driver Sawaq El-Autobis 1983 Atef El-Tayeb
Some of the Fear Shey min el khouf 1969 Hussein Kamal
Struggle of the Heroes Sira' Al Abtal 1962 Tawfik Saleh
Black Market Suq al-Soda, Al 1945 Kamel El-Telmissany
Adrift on the Nile Tharthara Fawq Al Neel 1971 Hussein Kamal
The Collar and the Bracelet El Tooq wal Eswera 1986 Khairy Beshara
Adieu Bonaparte Weda'an Bonapart 1985 Youssef Chahine
The Two Orphans[31] Al Yateematain 1949 Hassan Al Imam
The Sixth Day[32] Al Yawm al-Sadis 1986 Youssef Chahine
Happy Day[33] Yawm Saeed 1940 Mohammed Karim
Sweet Day, Bitter Day[34] Yom mor ... Yom helw 1988 Khairy Beshara
The Wife of an Important Man Zawgat Ragol Mohim 1988 Mohamed Khan
Zeinab[35] 1950 Mohammed Karim
The Second Wife El Zouga El Tania 1967 Salah Abu Seif
The White Gown Al-Rida’ al-Abyad 1975 Hassan Ramzi
People on the Top Ahl el qema 1981 Ali Badrakhan

Notable figures[edit]




Film critics[edit]

Music Composers[edit]

  • Ammar El Sherei (1948–2012)
  • Ali Ismael (1922-1974)
  • Fouad Al-Zahery (1916-1988)
  • Moody El Imam (1957-)
  • Omar Khairat (1948–present)
  • Ahmed Elgamal (1960's-Early 2000's)
  • Hesham Nazih (1972-)

See also[edit]

In the press[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Table 6: Share of Top 3 distributors (Excel)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Cairo Film Festival information Archived 2011-12-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Darwish, Mustafa, Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 1998, Pp. 12–13.
  7. ^ A.V. "The rise and fall of Egyptian Arabic". The Economist. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  8. ^ Farid, Samir, "Lights, camera...retrospection" Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine, Al-Ahram Weekly, December 30, 1999
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2013-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ a b Farid, Samir, "An Egyptian Story" Archived 2013-05-14 at the Wayback Machine, Al-Ahram Weekly, November 23–29, 2006
  12. ^ Khairy, Khaireya, "Ahmed Ramzi: rendezvous at the snooker club" Archived 2007-04-12 at the Wayback Machine, Al-Ahram Weekly, June 22, 2000
  13. ^ Farid, Samir, "Lights, camera... retrospection" Al-Ahram Weekly, December 30, 1999
  14. ^ Anis, Mouna, "Before the public gaze" Archived 2003-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, Al-Ahram Weekly, June 28, 2001
  15. ^ Sergey Kudryavtsev (4 July 2006). "Зарубежные фильмы в советском кинопрокате". LiveJournal (in Russian).
  16. ^ "«Белое платье» (Al-Reda' Al-Abiad, 1973)". KinoPoisk (in Russian). Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Советский кинопрокат – Империя наносит ответный удар". (in Russian). Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  18. ^ "Sahar el Layali", The New York Times, 2004
  19. ^ El-Assyouti, Mohamed, "Forgotten memories" Archived 2013-05-13 at the Wayback Machine,Al-Ahram Weekly, September 2, 1999
  20. ^ "Abi foq al-Shagara". 17 February 1969 – via
  21. ^ "Afarit el-asphalt". 11 August 1996 – via
  22. ^ "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" – via
  23. ^ "Date Wine". 1 September 1999 – via
  24. ^ "Land of Fear". 14 March 2007 – via
  25. ^ "The Land". 4 August 2012 – via
  26. ^ "Al-asfour". 28 October 2007 – via
  27. ^ "Awdat al ibn al dal". 5 August 2012 – via
  28. ^ "Sons of Egypt" – via
  29. ^ "The Will". 6 November 1939 – via
  30. ^ "El Medina". 5 July 2000 – via
  31. ^ "The Two Orphans" – via
  32. ^ "Al-yawm al-Sadis". 3 December 1986 – via
  33. ^ "A Happy Day" – via
  34. ^ "Yom mor... yom helw" – via
  35. ^ "Zeinab". 18 May 2018 – via

Further reading[edit]

  • Viola Shafik, Popular Egyptian Cinema: Gender, Class, and Nation, American University in Cairo Press, 2007, ISBN 978-977-416-053-0
  • Walter Armbrust, "Political Film in Egypt" in: Josef Gugler (ed.) Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence, University of Texas Press and American University in Cairo Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-292-72327-6, ISBN 978-9-774-16424-8, pp 228–251

External links[edit]