Egyptian cinema


Egyptian cinema

The cinema was born in Egypt in 1896. The inaugural session took place in an elegant cafe in Alexandria. That day, the cinematographer screened a film of the Lumière brothers.

Thirty years later, producers from the cosmopolitan society, perhaps remembering this memorable screening, are laying the foundations of the national cinema, the true birth of which coincides with the release of Lavla, a film produced and performed by the actress' Azïza Amïr.

A cinema of romances

Egyptian cinema is experiencing its true second wind around 1930 when Tala'at Harb inaugurates the studios of Banque Misr. Unfortunately the first speaking productions, which use musical scenarios, go wrong. It was not until 1936 and the film Wedad, directed by the German Fritz Kramp, to reveal on screen the talent of the great singer Umm Kulthûm. From then on, a star system reigns over the national industry, which is booming.

But, intoxicated by a success too easy, Egyptian cinema kills the hen with the golden eggs: as its productions flood the Arab market, its quality declines. Some critics invent about him the unflattering expression of "loukoum cinema".

The image of the country that his film with rose water spreads over the Arab world (which he monopolizes) ends up worrying.

1947 sees the first law of censorship, which forbids both filming in popular neighborhoods and in the homes of fellahs, to film women wearing headscarves and scenes of social disorder.

State cinema of the 50s

In turn, the regime resulting from the revolution of 1952 establishes a state cinema. The new institution has the merit of promoting the expression of a certain (neo-) social realism. This allows Egyptian cinema to catch up with the novel. It is then that a generation of great directors who will mark the seventh Arab art. The first to be known, Salâh Abu Sayf, uses scenarios of Mahfûz and reveals the actor Omar Sharif in Death among the living. His remarkable works - Le Sangsue (1956), Le Coudaud (1957), C'est ça l'amour (1958), N'éteins pas le soleil (1961) - are all marked by undeniable technical research. This is the aim of Sayf, who in 1967 declared: "I believe in cinema - as Art and not as a mere profession - as I believe in life, in my homeland, in Egyptian man."

At the same time, Husayn Kamal became known with a neorealist film with beautiful images: the Postman (1968).

Another director, Tawfîq Salâh, takes a fresh look at Egyptian society in the Revolt (1966) and in the Journal of a Campaign Substitute (1968) based on the famous autobiographical novel Tawfîq al-Hakïm. Tawfîq Salâh is a committed director. In an interview in 1969, he states: "One concern has dominated my cinematic attempts: that my films tell the people what I think is historically necessary to say. Forced to go into exile in Syria, he persists in his disturbing statements.

Thus, to the question: "What is the condition of a film he is mobilizing", he replies, in 19/6: "When it incites the reversal of a situation".

In a more plastic-oriented research perspective, Youssef Chahine staged the Son of Nilj and became known in 1954 thanks to Ciel d'enfer with Omar Sharif. This quality-conscious director, who ensures: "Every film I make teaches me something", has a regular production from which emerge some titles: the Earth (1969), the sparrow (1973), awarded at the festival of Cannes and which tells the "wound to heal after the defeat of 67", and Adieu Bonaparte (1985) with Michel Piccoli.

The new wave

In the generation of contemporary directors of the 1952 revolution came a promising new wave. Initially costume designer Mankiewiez for his Cleopatra and Rossellini for the struggle of man for his survival, Châdi Abd al-Salam takes more than two years to shoot the Mummy (1969). The film tells the story of grave robbers who live from the clandestine sale of their archaeological loot to foreigners. Châdï 'Abd al-Salâm now runs the Experimental Cinema Center and is preparing a film about Akhenaton. Since 1973, however, Egyptian cinema has been declining. The ordinary productions of the Cité du Cinéma, housed in a modern district on the road to the Pyramids, decline. Ordinary scenarios rarely deviate from the melodic style. Staging uses and abuses belly dances. Magda, Chadia, Kouka andTahia Carioca as well as the singers Naïma Akef or Amir Rostûm were well-known. And what about male actors like Mohamed Abd el-Wahab, both mime and roud guitarist, and especially Farid el-Atrach, a sort of Egyptian Mastroianni, actor, singer, tragically disappeared in a car accident!

The currencies reported by the export of the national cinema across the Arab countries are falling. Cinema no longer represents one of the main resources of the state. A Cairo International Film Festival was created in 1976 to stop the decline of national productions.

It is to be hoped that the "Golden Nefertiti", the supreme reward of this event, will be a sufficient challenge for the Egyptian producers to find, in the long run, the path of quality.

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