Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence

Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence

Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence

Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence


This is the first study to cover cinemas from Iran to Morocco. Nine essays present the region's major national cinemas, devoting special attention to the work of directors who have given image and voice to dissent from political regimes, from patriarchal customs, from fundamentalist movements, and from the West. These country essays are complemented by in-depth discussions of eighteen films that have been selected for both their excellence and their critical engagement with pressing current issues. The introduction provides a comprehensive overview of filmmaking throughout the region, including important films produced outside the national cinemas. The long history of Iranian cinema, its international renown, and the politics of directors confronting the state, earns it a special place in this volume. The other major emphasis is on the Israel/Palestine conflict, featuring films by Palestinian directors, Israelis, and an Egyptian working in Syria.

Nineteen authors collaborated on this book, among them Walter Armbrust, Roy Armes, Kevin Dwyer, Eric Egan, Nurith Gertz, Lina Khatib, Florence Martin, and Nadia Yaqub. About half of the contributors are film scholars; the others range across literary studies and the social sciences to two film directors and a novelist. Beyond differences in disciplinary orientation, there is considerable variation among contributors in the perspectives that inform their writing. They offer an illuminating range of approaches to the cinemas of the region.

The book is richly illustrated with posters of the featured films, photos of their directors at work, and stills illustrating critical arguments in the film essays.


This book would not have been possible but for the creativity of film directors from across the Middle East and the Maghreb. Persevering against all odds, they have established a rich heritage of extraordinary films. Time and again they have offered fresh perspectives on crucial issues confronting the region by giving image and voice to dissident views. We dedicate the book to them.

I thank the eighteen contributors from three continents who agreed to join our venture, endured my unending demands, responded to my critical comments, and taught me a great deal. I am grateful to the directors and producers who provided me with films, illustrations, and information.

This collection grew out of a course I developed at the University of Connecticut in response to the aftermath of 9/11, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ongoing debate over the Israel/Palestine conflict. I am greatly indebted to Lynne Gladstein, who encouraged me to teach this course in the Honors Program, to a large number of colleagues who readily agreed to participate when the course morphed into a film and lecture series, and to my students whose comments and questions wonderfully concentrated my mind.

Many people helped along the way. Jim Burr at University of Texas Press has been most supportive from the time when we first discussed this project. But for the wizardry of Alex Bothell, many illustrations would be in worse shape; others would have been abandoned altogether as unsuitable for printing. My special thanks to Livia Alexander, Salma Abu Ayyash, Talat Azimi, Lana Babij, Stephen Bustamente, Daniel Buttrey, Maha Darawsha, Mohamed Faizal, Niloo Fotouhi, Nadia Hlibka, Janet Jordan, Géraldine Le Chêne, Gérard Le Chêne, Joseph Natale, Dominique Olier, Rasha Salti, Lynn Sweet, and Alex Williams, who assisted me in various ways.

I cherish the support my wife and our daughters gave me in spite of my sins of absence and distraction as I allowed myself to be absorbed by this endeavor.

Children are prominently featured in many films from the region; for them all royalties will be donated to UNICEF.


Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.