Since 1896, the first time a movie projection took place in Alexandria, Arab cinema has continuously experienced ups and downs. Beyond the years, the seventh art in the Arab world has indeed suffered the consequences of political and economic winds blowing in the Middle East. Considering the situation in countries like Egypt, Morocco or in the Gulf countries where the industry is flourishing, with commercial films appreciated by the local audience, other Arab countries are having trouble to find their place. It is the case of countries like Syria, Jordan or Palestine, where movies are almost absent on the screen until now.
Arab movies, having achieved the feat of scoring the Arab cinema and of entering a golden legend or the “golden age”, are now joined by films nominated for the Césars and the Oscars.
The revolution has brought a wind of change
The Arab Spring managed to introduce new trends in the movie industry. It has enabled producers to go beyond the barriers, which were previously quite frustrating. The new generation of directors now aims to be more confident, more free and more expressive in their productions. Arab movies don’t only speak of immigration, revolution, terrorism and women’s empowerment but handle more themes of everyday life and social facts. There is also this renaissance through the last Arab films in international festivals. 2016 marks the breakthrough of Arab films at the Oscars. To give you an overview of Arab cinema, here are three of the most influential people of the Arab cinema.
Adel Imam, sacred giant of Egyptian cinema
He was born May 17, 1946 in Mansoura and is considered as one of the best Arab actors. In all, the Egyptian actor participated in more than 100 films and ten plays, and in many television series during his brilliant career. His acting, mixing humor and sadness, to embody the misfits and victims of injustice enabled him to attract the general public in the Arab world. He was even nicknamed Arabic Charlie Chaplin of modern times. Some of his best-known films are Terrorism and the Kebab and The Terrorist where he fights against religious fanaticism, extremism, terrorism and dictatorship. Today he defends the refugees and more generally the human rights in the Arab world. He was nominated Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in January 2000.
Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi film maker
Born in 1972, she is a pioneer of cinema in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab world. Having studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, she returned to Saudi Arabia to teach Arabic and English in a company before she finally turned to cinema industry. She took film courses in Sydney and received her ” Prestigious Endeavour Scholarship Award” after earning her Master degree.
Haifaa al-Mansour is propelled to the front of the international scene at the release of her first feature film “Wadjda” and the first movie directed in the kingdom and by a woman. The film was acclaimed in Venice and then rewarded in Dubai and Cannes. She already has several short films, some selected in national and international festivals. The Saudi director was ranked among the 100 most powerful Arabs women.
Khadija Alami, a key figure of the Moroccan cinema
Despite economic science studies she made in the North of France, Khadija Alami never gave up her passion for cinema. Slowly but surely, the Moroccan woman had conquered the world of film production and became a key figure of the cinema in Morocco. Since 1998, date of the creation of her society K Films, she participated in more than 40 international productions in providing service delivery and technical teams to film production companies that are shot in Morocco. In the same time, she directed many short films, documentaries and films. She directed “Au bonheur des dames”, Myriam Bakir’s “Imagine si”, Youssef Britel’s “Flou” and co-produced Tala Hadid’s “The Narrow Frame of Midnight”.