Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 March 2007
Issue No. 836
Culture
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The top 100

Samir Farid goes back to the future

Click to view caption
Shadi Abdel-Salam's Al-Mummiya'

The filmmakers' blues


The first film production in any country -- regardless of its screen duration, the nationality of those involved in its making, or its classification (fiction, documentary, animation) -- is considered the first film in the history of the cinema in that country. On 20 June 2007, Egypt celebrates the production of the first Egyptian film, the short documentary entitled El-Khidiwi Abbas Hilmi El-Thani Yazour Al-Ma'had Al-'Ilmi Al-Tabi' li Masgid Al-Mursi Abul-Abbas in Al-Iskandariya (Kedive Abbas Hilmi II Visits the Scientific Institute Annexed to Al-Mursi Abul-Abbas Mosque in Alexandria), produced by Studio Aziz and Dores.

Every country commemorates the centenary of its cinema with a celebration worthy of the occasion, like the Chinese celebration in 2005. Over several months the cinema committee of the Supreme Council of Culture (SCC) in Cairo put together a complete plan for the celebration of the centenary of Egyptian cinema. The plan was ready in June 2006, and in the same month the minister of culture and head of SCC ordered the drawing up of an executive committee to implement this plan; that committee has yet to convene.

Last November, the non-governmental organisation Cadre (Audio-Visual Development Foundation) announced that it would organise the first Silent Film Festival on 20 June 2007, celebrating the centenary of the cinema. The festival is to become an annual event taking place between 20 and 26 June. Such an event will be the first of its kind in Egypt, the Arab world, Africa and the Middle East. Despite the fact that silent films constitute a third of the production of cinema in the world, there are only a handful of festivals for silent films out of the world's 1,000 some annual festivals.

November 2006 was also when the Bibliotheca Alexandrina formed a committee from three Egyptian film critics and historians to choose the most important 100 films in the history of Egyptian cinema to mark the centenary -- meaning landmarks and turning points irrespective of aesthetic standards. The list of the Bibliotheca was an attempt to represent both the largest number of male and female directors and all the trends and genres in narrative (fiction) feature films, which number over 3,000.

Director Salah Abu Seif came first with eight films, followed by Youssef Chahine, seven, and Henri Barakat, four. Each of Kamal El-Sheikh, Atef Salem, Saïd Marzouq, Atef El-Tayyeb, Khairi Bishara, Dawoud Abdel-Sayyed had three films; while each of Ahmed Badrakhan, Niazi Mustafa, Fateen Abdel-Wahhab, Tawfiq Saleh, Hassan El-Iman, Hussein Kamal, Ali Badrakhan, Raafat El-Mihi and Osama Fawzi had two.

Out of a total of 62 directors, one film by each of the following was selected: Mohamed Karim, Fritz Kramp, Togo Mizrahi, Kamal Selim, Youssef Wahbi, Kamel El-Telmissani, Walieddin Sameh, Ahmed Kamel Morsi, Anwar Wagdi, Helmi Halim, Mahmoud Zulfiqar, Ahmed Diaaeddin, Hassan El-Seifi, Helmi Rafla, Ibrahim Imara, Hussein Fawzi, Ezzeddin Zulfiqar, Hossameddin Mustafa, Khalil Shawqi, Kamal Attiya, Ashraf Fahmi, Mohamed Radi, Shadi Abdel-Salam, Mamdouh Shoukri, Samir Seif, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, Nader Galal, Ali Abdel-Khaleq, Ahmed Yehia, Mohamed Khan, Hani Lashin, Sherif Arafa, Yousry Nasrallah, Mohamed Kamel El-Qalyoubi, Munir Radi, Inas El-Deghidi, Magdi Ahmed Ali, Sayed Said, Radwan El-Kashef, Mohamed Abu Seif, Atef Hatata, Hani Khalifa, Hala Khalil and Marwan Hamed.

On 20 June, Egyptian Cinema Day, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina publishes a book on the 100 films selected in over 400 pages edited by Ahmed El-Hadari, bringing together articles by a number of critics and historians on the importance of these films. It is thought the Bibliotheca owns copies (VHS or DVD), even though the correct procedure is to produce 35mm prints of the films, but the Bibliotheca does not have access to a 35mm projector.

In 1952 Egypt celebrated the 25th anniversary of the production of its first feature film (1927). It was a huge celebration on both the governmental and popular levels. In 1977, the 50th anniversary was still big, but smaller than the silver one, and similarly the diamond jubilee in 2002 was even smaller than its predecessor. This June the centenary commemoration is bound to be very weak even if Cadre manages to hold the first Silent Film Festival.

Cinema is an expression of modernity, and the decrease in the attention dedicated to the cinema as part of the national Egyptian culture is an indication of the crisis of modernity in Egypt. The size of the celebration of the anniversary or any occasion is no proof of regression, rather that Egypt is the only country in the world which produced over 3,000 feature films, and almost as many short films, yet remains without a cinematheque where at least one copy of each of them can be found, even if such copies will be on VHS or DVD.

The committee head by Ahmed El-Hadari, with the membership of Samir Farid and Kamal Ramzi approved the following list of the most important 100 Egyptian films:

1. Al-Warda Al-Bida (White Rose, 1933, Mohamed Karim)

2. Nasheed Al-Amal (Song of Hope, 1937, Ahmed Badrakhan)

3. Salama fi Kheir (Salama is Good, 1937, Niazi Mustafa)

4. Lasheen (1938, Fritz Kramp)

5. Othman wi Ali (Othman and Ali, 1939, Togo Mizrahi)

6. Al-Azima (Determination, 1939, Kamal Selim)

7. Gharam wa Intiqam (Love and Revenge, 1944, Youssef Wahbi)

8. Al-Souq Al-Sawdaa (Black Market, 1945, Kamel El-Telmissani)

9. Antar wi Abla (Antar and Abla, 1945, Niazi Mustafa)

10. Li'bit Al-Sit (Woman's Play, 1946, Walieddin Sameh)

11. Al-Na'ib Al-'Aam (Public Prosecutor, 1946, Ahmed Kamel Morsi)

12. Gazal Al-Banat (Girls' Wooing, 1949, Anwar Wagdi

13. Mustafa Kamel (1952, Ahmed Badrakhan)

14. Lahn Al-Khuloud (Immortal Music, 1952, Henri Barakat)

15. Raya wa Skina (Raya and Sakina, 1953, Salah Abu Seif)

16. Siraa fil-Wadi (Conflict in the Valley, 1954, Youssef Chahine)

17. Al-Anisa Hanafi (Miss Hanafi, 1954, Fateen Abdel-Wahhab)

18. Hayat Aw Mowt (Life or Death, 1954, Kamal El-Sheikh)

19. Niharak Saïd (Have a Good Day, 1955, Fateen Abdel-Wahhab)

20. Ayamna Al-Hilwa (Our Sweet Days, 1955, Helmi Halim)

21. Darb Al-Mahabeel (Al-Mahabeel Alley, 1956, Tawfiq Saleh)

22. Ranit Al-Khulkhal (Anklet Ring, 1956, Mahmoud Zulfiqar)

23. Ayn Umri? (Where is my Life?, 1956, Ahmed Diaaeddin)

24. Shabab Imraa (Woman's Youth, 1956, Salah Abu Seif)

25. Samara (1956, Hassan El-Seifi)

26. Al-Mufatish Al-'Aam (Inspector General, 1956, Helmi Rafla)

27. Al-Garima wal-'Iqab (Crime and Punishment, 1957, Ibrahim Imara)

28. Al-Fituwa (The Thug, 1957, Salah Abu Seif)

29. La Anam (I Don't Sleep, 1957, Salah Abu Seif)

30. Tamr Hina (1957, Hussein Fawzi)

31. Bab Al-Hadeed (Cairo Central Station, 1958, Youssef Chahine)

32. Imraa fil-Tareeq (Woman on the Road, 1958, Ezzeddin Zulfiqar)

33. Hassan wa Naïma (Hassan and Naïma, 1959, Henri Barakat)

34. Bein Al-Samaa wal-Ard (Between Heaven and Earth, 1959, Salah Abu Seif)

35. Doaa Al-Karawan (The Morning Bird's Prayer, 1959, Henri Barakat)

36. Siraa fil-Nil (Conflict in the Nile, 1959, Atef Salem)

37. Rigal fil-Asifa (Men in the Storm, 1960, Hossameddin Mustafa)

38. Bidaya wa Nihaya (Beginning and End, 1960, Salah Abu Seif)

39. Fi Baytina Ragul (A Man in Our House, 1961, Henri Barakat)

40. Siraa Al-Abtal (Heroes' Struggle, 1962, Tawfiq Saleh)

41. Al-Lis wal-Kilab (The Thief and the Dogs, 1962, Kamal El-Sheikh)

42. Al-Nasser Saleheddin (Salaadin, 1963, Youssef Chahine)

43. Umm Al-Arousa (Mother of the Bride, 1963, Atef Salem)

44. Al-Haram (The Sin, 1965, Henri Barakat)

45. Al-Gabal (The Mountain, 1965, Khalil Shawqi)

46. Khan Al-Khalili (1966, Atef Salem)

47. Al-Boustaghi (The Postman, 1968, Hussein Kamal)

48. Qandil Umm Hashim (The Holy Lantern, 1968, Kamal Attiya)

49. Shai' min Al-Khowf (Something of Fear, 1969, Hussein Kamal)

50. Al-Ard (The Land, 1970, Youssef Chahine)

51. Zawgati wal-Kalb (My Wife and the Dog, 1971, Saïd Marzouq)

52. Khalli Balak min Zouzou (Pay Attention to Zouzou, 1972, Hassan El-Imam)

53. Al-Sukariya (1973, Hassan El-Imam)

54. Leil wa Qudban (Night and Prison Bars, 1973, Ashraf Fahmi)

55. Hamam Al-Malatili (The Malatili Bath, 1973, Salah Abu Seif)

56. Al-'Usfour (The Sparrow, 1974, Youssef Chahine)

57. Abnaa Al-Samt (Children of Silence, 1974, Mohamed Radi)

58. Al-Mummiya' (The Night of Counting the Years, 1975, Shadi Abdel-Salam)

59. Za'ir Al-Fagr (Dawn's Visitor, 1975, Mamdouh Shoukri)

60. Uridu Hallan (I Want a Solution, 1975, Saïd Marzouq)

61. 'Ala man Nutliq Al-Rasas (Whom do we Fire at, 1975, Kamal El-Sheikh)

62. Al-Karnak (1975, Ali Badrakhan)

63. Al-Muzniboun (The Sinners, 1976, Saïd Marzouq)

64. Awdat Al-Ibn Al-Dal (Return of the Prodigal Son, 1976, Youssef Chahine)

65. Da'irat Al-Intiqam (Circle of Vengeance, 1976, Samir Seif)

66. Al-Saqa Matt (The Waterbearer is Dead, 1977, Salah Abu Seif)

67. Al-Mahfaza Mi'aya (The Wallet is with Me, 1978, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz)

68. Iskendriya Leih? (Alexandria, Why? 1979, Youssef Chahine)

69. Ouyoun La Tanam (Eyes that Never Sleep, 1981, Raafat El-Mihi)

70. Arzaq ya Duniya (Life is Bountiful, 1982, Nader Galal)

71. Al-'Ar (The Shame, 1982, Ali Abdel-Khaleq)

72. Sawwaq Al-Utoubis (Bus Driver, 1983, Atef El-Tayyeb)

73. Al-Afocato (The Advocate, 1984, Raafat El-Mihi)

74. Hata la Yatir Al-Dukhan (So that the Smoke does not Fly Away, 1984, Ahmed Yehia)

75. Al-Towq wal-Uswura (The Collar and the Bracelet, 1986, Khairy Bishara)

76. Al-Gou' (The Hunger, 1986, Ali Badrakhan)

77. Al-Bari' (The Innocent, 1986, Atef El-Tayyeb)

78. Ahlam Hind wa Camilia (Dreams of Hind and Camilia, 1988, Mohamed Khan)

79. Yom Mur Yom Hilw (Bitter Day Sweet Day, 1988, Khairy Bishara)

80. Al-Aragoz (Punch and Judy, 1989, Hani Lashin)

81, Al-Huroub (The Escape, 1991, Atef El-Tayyeb)

82. Samaa Hos (All Quiet, 1991, Sherif Arafa)

83. Al-Kit Kat (1991, Dawoud Abdel-Sayyed)

84. Ice-Cream fi Gleam (Ice-Cream in Gleam, 1992, Khairy Bishara)

85. Mercedes (1993, Yousry Nasrallah)

86. Thalatha 'Ala Al-Tariq (Three on the Road, 1993, Mohamed Kamel El-Qalyoubi)

87. Ziyarat Al-Sayed Al-Ra'is (Mr President's Visit, 1994, Munir Radi)

88. Lahm Rikhis (Cheap Flesh, 1995, Inas El-Deghidi)

89. Ya Dunia ya Gharami (O Life, My Beloved, 1996, Magdi Ahmed Ali)

90. 'Afarit Al-Asphalt (Asphalt Devils, 1996, Osama Fawzi)

91. Al-Qubtan (The Sea Captain, 1997, Sayed Said)

92. 'Araq Al-Balah (Date Wine, 1999, Radwan El-Kashef)

93. Ard Al-Khowf (Land of Fear, 2000, Dawoud Abdel-Sayyed)

94. Oula Thanawi (First Year in High School, 2001, Mohamed Abu Seif)

95. Al-Abwab Al-Mughlaqa (Closed Doors, 2001, Atef Hatata)

96. Muwatin wa Mukhbir wa Harami (A Citizen, a Police Detective and a Thief, 2001, Dawoud Abdel-Sayyed)

97. Sahar Al-Layali (Nights Vigil, 2003, Hani Khalifa)

98. Ahla Al-Awqat (Best Times, 2004, Hala Khalil)

99. Bahib Al-Sima (I Love Cinema, 2004, Osama Fawzi)

100. Imarat Yaqoubiyan (The Yacoubian Building, 2006, Marwan Hamed)

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