Egypt has always been the leading one within the Arab world. It all started around the 1890s with silent movies. The first ‘Egyptian’ film is considered to be Leila, by Stephan Rosti (1927). It is a story of love, and was the first in a long line of melodramas. Its star, Aziza Amir, is the first female actress in Egypt. Then the Egyptian cinema really took off after the introduction of sound. The 1940s and 1950s are generally considered the “Golden Age” of Egyptian cinema.
The leading stars of this era are numerous, and they really strived to build the movie scene in Egypt. Youssef Wahbi was and still is one of the greatest actors and directors of the Egyptian Cinema of all times (from 1932 until he died in Cairo in 1982). Even though he comes from a very rich family, he dedicated all his career and life to the Film Industry. Omar Sharif, another great Egyptian actor, starred in Hollywood movies as Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl and Lawrence of Arabia. He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won three Golden Globe Awards. In 2003 he starred in the French film Monsieur Ibrahim. He won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival and the Best Actor César, from the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. Fatin Hamama, the “first lady of the screen”, who played roles of the orphan/Cinderella type, is one of the Egyptian cinema leading actresses of all times. Youssef Wahbi realized the young actress’s talent so he offered her a lead role in 1946 when she was seven years old and she has starred in a large number of films since then. Other famous names are Rushdi Abaza, Ahmed Ramzi, Souad Hosni, Ahmed Mazhar, Naguib El-Rihani and many more.
Now let’s take a look at some of my favorite movies:
Nahr El- Hob 1960
Based on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, starring Fatin Hamama as Nawal and Omar Sharif as Khaled, the stories goes like this: Nawal is a simple girl living with her brother, a young attorney Mamdouh, who hopes to get the recognition of the Pasha Taher, who admired Nawal and married her despite the age difference. They have a young child, but the Pasha is cruel, and Nawal being deprived emotionally, she meets the officer Khalid on the train, and is captivated by love. She asks for a divorce but the Pasha refuses and expels her from the house and deprives her of her son. She travels with Khaled to Lebanon and picks up two press photos which condemn Nawal and affect the political future of the husband, so she decides to return. Khaled dies in the 1948 war. The husband cruelly refuses to return his wife to his house, and in the end her car breaks down at the train crossing, and she dies.
The story is set in the 12th century in the Arab-ruled Spanish province Andalusia, where the famed philosopher Averroes is appointed grand judge by the caliph and his liberal court judgments are not liked by everyone. The caliph’s political rivals, centered around the leader of a fanatical Islamic sect, force the caliph to send Averroes into exile, but his ideas keep on living thanks to his students. Starring Nour Al-Sharif, and directed by Youssef Chahin – a critically acclaimed director frequently seen in film festivals during decades. Mohamed Mounir, a popular Egyptian singer and actor, co-stars in the movie.
Ayyam El Sadat 2001
An Egyptian biographical film about the late President of Egypt, Anwar Al Sadat, starring Ahmed Zaki, another leading Egyptian actor characterized by his talent, skill and ability to impersonate.