Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Popular Egyptian Cinema

Popular Egyptian Cinema: Gender, Class, and Nation

Viola Shafik
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 360
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Popular Egyptian Cinema
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking work, film scholar Viola Shafik examines popular and commercial movies from Egypt’s film industry, including a number of the biggest box-office hits widely distributed in Egypt and the Arab world. Turning a critical eye on a major player in Egyptian cultural life, Shafik examines these films against the backdrop of the country’s overall socio-political development, from the emergence of the film industry in the 1930s, through the Nasser and Sadat eras, up to the era of globalization. In unearthing the largely contradictory meanings conveyed by different films, Popular Egyptian Cinema examines a broad array of themes, from gender relations to feminism, Islamism and popular ideas about sexuality and morality. Focusing on representations of religious and ethnic minorities—primarily Copts, Jews, and Nubians—Shafik draws out issues such as the formation of the Egyptian nation, cinematic stereotyping, and political and social taboos. Shafik also considers pivotal genres, such as melodrama, realism, and action film, in relation to public debates over highbrow and lowbrow culture and in light of local and international film criticism.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-375-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The last two decades have witnessed a rising interest in issues of popular culture, and in particular popular film. Increasing numbers of publications have been eager to fill a gap that preceding studies have left unexamined. My own interest was certainly inspired by this general trend, yet it was likewise guided by the experiences of my earlier work as film curator in Europe where I encountered strong reservations (including my own) in the face of Egyptian mainstream productions (and the products of other, non-Western industries, such as Turkish, Indian, and early Hong Kongese) in contrast to a clear preference for...

  5. Part 1: Nation

    • CHAPTER 1 The Other
      (pp. 13-88)

      The most horrible grievances of the twentieth century, such as social unrest, ethnic cleansing, and forced migration have been commonly linked to the process of modern nation formation that was combined in the so-called Third World with the movement of colonization and decolonization, something that has doubtless left its traces on the art and culture of the affected peoples and made Homi Bhabha state that “The nation fills the void left in the uprooting of communities and kin, and turns that loss into the language of metaphor” (Bhabha 1990, 291). This certainly holds true for people under foreign occupation like...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Allegorical Nation
      (pp. 89-116)

      Having undertaken the cinematic examination of the ‘terror of the space or race of the Other’ in correlation with modern nation formation, it still is necessary to take a look at narratives with an overt and explicit sense of ‘nationness’ as expressed through anti- and postcolonial allegories. In the 1980s Frederic Jameson had proposed to understand the relation of nation and narration through the device of the allegory, particularly in the Third World context, an allegory clearly distinct from unequivocal symbolism though: “If allegory has once again become somehow congenial for us today, as over against the massive and monumental...

  6. Part 2: Gender

    • CHAPTER 3 Feminism and Femininity
      (pp. 119-196)

      In general the status of women and the issue of gender inequality have been among the most negotiated and controversial questions relating to modern Arab-Muslim culture. Since the late nineteenth century they have become an integral part of many either competing or complementary ideological discourses spreading in the Arab world in general and in Egypt in particular. Numerous informed studies have been published during the last decade dealing with the situation of women in the region on the one hand while reviewing the history of feminist development and thinking on the other. Some of them, such as Leila Ahmed’s groundbreaking...

    • CHAPTER 4 Female Stardom, Myth-production, and Morality
      (pp. 197-238)

      Stars, whether directors, such as Youssef Chahine or actors, to name only Omar Sharif, have always been all-too-natural by-products of Egypt’s long commercial cinematic tradition. In fact an audience commonly recognizes a film by the names of the star performers and not by its director. Locating a tape in a video store is achieved by searching first of all for its leading actors. The names of stars, stories, and latest releases are circulated in numerous television programs and are the source of national pride. Moreover, Egyptian movie stars have become as much part of the country’s public life as a...

  7. Part 3: Class

    • CHAPTER 5 Negotiating Class through Genre
      (pp. 241-280)

      Class has been an ever-present and ever-determinant factor in Egyptian cinema, yet it was one of the most neglected issues in studies of film in Egypt, for the question of class has not only shaped sequels of film narratives and thus been associated with certain genres, but has also played the role of a symbolic signifier regarding the appearance and status of film performers. Moreover it has left its traces on the process of film perception by audiences, as evident in the common division of movie theaters into ‘classes.’ What seems most striking, however, is that class has also contributed...

    • CHAPTER 6 Audiences and Class
      (pp. 281-324)

      Earliest cinema-going was at the outset a bourgeois habit in Egypt, as elsewhere in the Middle East and unlike Europe and the U.S. where the invention was soon proletarianized through lower-class distribution circuits such as the funfair and nickelodeon. Some of the more privileged foreign and national inhabitants of the two major cities Cairo and Alexandria must have been the first to attend the screenings that presented the new technical invention, first in the Tousson stock-exchange in Alexandria and then in the Hamam Schneider (Schneider Baths) in Cairo. In 1896, only a few months after their initial European screenings, the...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 325-326)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-338)
  10. Index of Names
    (pp. 339-342)
  11. Index of Film Titles
    (pp. 343-348)
  12. Photographic Credits
    (pp. 349-350)