So I’m back, after a week’s vacation in the US, and am ready to get back into the swing of things in Cairo! I’ve done a little research and found out that there’s actually a pretty cool event taking place in the coming two days that I will try to get to. It’s the 11th Independent Film Festival at the Goethe Institute (May 22 – 24). Now, I know what most of you are thinking – Cairo? Film? Come on! Actually, Egypt, and Cairo, are great places for film buffs! Egyptian cinema is quite famous, with a quite a few films being produced annually. In fact, there have been more than 4000 films produced in Egypt since the early 1900s, which is more than 75% of the total made in all the Middle East.
While Egyptian cinema hasn’t always been of the highest quality, it has been consistent in its popularity and fame. In the 50s, most films followed the same sort of standard, with there ALWAYS being a happy ending, along with some songs and dances. Many film stars also had recording careers, and singers easily crossed-over into film. While these cookie-cutter films weren’t exactly of the highest quality, they did reflect quite well what the general public was interested in seeing, as well as helping to maintain an interest in the art of film making…the end result being the production of thousands of films.
More recently, though, the film industry in Egypt has sort of branched out a bit. While there are still the cookie-cutter romance and comedy films, there are also now more independent films which have won critical acclaim, portraying modern life in a much more realistic way, and dealing with deeper issues such as drugs, sexual harassment, religious tensions, and economic and political woes. Films such as 678, The Yacoubian Building, and Hassan and Morqos and many others have addressed these topics and have gained many positive international reviews. With the shift in film making taking place recently, Egypt’s film industry has been recognized at many different film festivals such as the North African Film Festival, and Egypt was even the guest country at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Egypt even hosts its own annual Cairo Film Festival (since 1976) and Alexandria Film Festival (since 2006) screening both Egyptian and foreign films of specific themes each year. With such rich cinematic history, film screenings take place all year long, even if not on the same scale.
If you’re in Cairo and are interested in watching a good Egyptian film, you can check out any of these places’ schedules as there’s always something going on: