Egypt started producing silent films in the 1890s, with 1927's Layla being the first full-length feature film. Cairo's film industry has been a regional force since sound was introduced in the 1930s. With more than 4000 films produced in Egypt, roughly three quarters of the total Arab production, it has been dubbed the Hollywood of the Middle East.
In the seventies some Arab directors such as Moustafa Akkad, a Syrian American, rose to fame.
Egyptian films while being Egyptian in their rawness are generally more European leaning in their style than American. Some of the most celebrated Egyptian directors are: Chadi Abdel-salam, Youssef Chahine, Atef El-Tayeb, Yousry Nassrallah and Sherif Arafa.
My favourite director is Youssef Chahine. He started his career in the 1950s and died in the late 2000s. He studied at Alexandria's Victoria College and then at the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles, Hollywood.
Initially, his films were too radical for Egyptian film viewers' taste; however, with the passage of time he became a favorite as his films challenged the status quo and were often at odds with the government. Due to the lack of support from a government backed industry, he formed a joint Egyptian-French production company and was therefore able to share his more controversial ideas through feature films and short documentaries.
He won the Cannes Film Festival lifetime achievement award in 1997. He also launched the careers of many actors and actresses including Omar Sharif. After his death he was also honored BY BAFTA for his contribution to film.
His notable films include; Destiny, The immigrant, Alexandria.. again and forever, An Egyptian Tale, Return of The Prodigal Son, Adieu Bonaparte and The Sixth Day (starring Dalida).
Some films to consider viewing are;
- The Mummy
(The night of counting years)
by Chadi Abdel Salam (1969)
- The Message (Arabic version)
by Moustapha Akkad (1977)
- Cairo as seen by Chahine
by Youssef Chahine (1991)
by Youssef Chahine (1997)
- The Yacoubian Building
by Marwan Hamed (2006)
by Nadine Labaki (2007)
by Mohamed Diab (2010)
by Haifaa Al-Mansour (2012)
by Hany Abu-Assad (2013)
- The blue elephant
by Marwan Hamed (2014)