Racy Egyptian Films No Longer Mirror Arab Societies (Highlights)

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Beirut, Lebanon

January 29, 2015

After the death of Arab film icons Faten Hamama and Sabah earlier this year, cinema fans revived the memories of what many describe as “la belle époque,” which dated from the 1950s till the mid-1970s.
During this golden age, budgets and standards were considerably high and the progressive state ideology promoted the production of films that were successful throughout the Arab world. This wave benefited from cultural interaction between different Arab societies, a seemingly endless cache of amazing talents and the blessing of a dedicated audience. More significantly, movies reflected liberal societies.
Aboudi Abu Jaoudeh, the director of Al-Furat publishing house, is a collector of Arab film posters. Through this collection, one can understand the prevailing mentality at that time. He explains that since the mid-1970s, filmmakers have steered away from showing explicit content as a result of pressure from producers from the Arabian Gulf.
A recent audiovisual performance titled Gharam wa Intiqam (Love and Revenge), designed by artist Randa Mirza and rapper Wael Kodaih, known as Rayess Beik, revives Arab cinema’s golden era. The show, which is still running in alternative venues, incorporates electronic music into scenes from some of the most iconic Egyptian, Lebanese, and Syrian movies.
This video includes an interview with Sadek Sabbah, a famous Lebanese cinema producer and distributor of Egyptian and Lebanese movies whose company, Sabbah Art Production, was a main contributor of cinematic production in the 1960s and 1970s. He analyses how social change in Egypt has affected the movies and discusses the influence of Islamists on public freedom in Egypt.

Shotlist and Transcript

1 Various of Aboud Abu Jaoudeh, Director of Al-Furat Publishing House, examining film posters

2 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Aboud Abu Jaoudeh, Director of Al-Furat Publishing House

Cinema was the main source of entertainment in Lebanon at that time. People from all social classes used to go at least five or six times a year to the movie theater.
Could you imagine that this poster was printed in 1955? This is one of the first movies starred by Hind Rustom.
This kind of magazines was printed in Lebanon in 1960s and even in the 1970s. This magazine was distributed in Arab countries. It is called Cinema and Marvels. It was indeed a marvelous magazine!
Interviewer: Do you think it would be possible for such magazines to be printed again in the Arab world?
No, it is not possible

4 Various of Metro al-Madina cabaret and movie theatre

5 Wide of screen in audiovisual show Gharam wa Intiqam (Love and Revenge); scene from Kaboria, starred by Ahmad Zaki and Raghda.

6 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Rayyes Beik, Musician

“I wanted to revive these songs with a new spirit so that I and other people rediscover them.”

7 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Randa Mirza, Artist

“We want to retrieve the aesthetics and experience that now have been lost. We want to bring this era back. Then we would perhaps be able to say, ‘See where we were and where we are now.’”

8 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Rayyes Beik, Musician

“There is a political, economic and artic void. There is a big void in the Arab world.”

9 Wide of posters in Metro al-Madina

10 Various of show; Dancers Tahiya Karioka, Samia Jamal. Soundtrack, Batwannis bik by Warda al-Jazairiya

11 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Sadeq Sabbah, Owner of Sabbah Art Production

“People’s mindset was affected by the Islamic tide. Part of this was negative. This negative part affected people. It affected their social habits and way of life, which has to do with cinema, what they eat or drink, as well as going out. It has to do with everything. It is not specifically related to cinema. If, in Lebanon for example, I wanted to say that cinema is the mirror of society… I feel that cinema currently is not the mirror of society.”