Egyptian Film: Gender and Class Violence Three Cycles

By Al-Obaidi, Jabbar A. | International Journal of Instructional Media, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Egyptian Film: Gender and Class Violence Three Cycles


Al-Obaidi, Jabbar A., International Journal of Instructional Media


INTRODUCTION

The Arab Republic of Egypt occupies the northeastern center of the African continent bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip. Egypt is an Islamic country with an ancient history, cosmopolitanism and modern political, social and cultural history with a noticeable level of freedom of speech and press. For this reason alone one can safely acclaim that this country might be considered as the information and cultural capital of the Arab world. The Arab world consists of 22 independent states with more than 300 million in population. At least 67 (July 1999 est.) million of the population are Egyptian citizens. These 22 countries speak the same language that is Arabic and share the basic social traditions, values, and culture. The majority of the people are Muslims and celebrate the same religious events. Yet, the Egyptian local dialogue is understood and spoken by 85% of the Arab world population. This has become more of a true phenomenon after the introduction of film and television in Egypt and other countries in the area. Egyptian films and television programs are shown all over the Arab countries. In addition, there are several cable television services, and the Arab Satellite channels, which include MBC and ART, orbis, Future TV, Ann and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. All is catering to the Arab communities in the world. Many studies revealed that since the 1960s Egyptian television programs (drama, documentaries, features, varieties, songs and music, news and interviews, game shows, especial programs, religious, cultural, intellectual, artistic ... etc.) have occupied a great percentage of the total time of other Arab television broadcast. This situation has increased the chance for Egyptian local dialogue or colloquium to be used by other citizens in the Arab countries. Also, it offers Egyptian films unprecedented opportunity to be shown on television, and in theaters.

Since the 1920s Egypt has had a strong cinematic experience and developed a noticeable trend in film productions. Its influence over the rest of the Arab countries is as profound as that of the American film industry on the international motion picture productions. Directors such as Yousif Shahine, Salah Abo Sayf and Atef Altayab, to name only a few, gained wide respect and fame regionally and internationally. In the same vein, many of Egypt's leading literacies including Tawfiq Alhakim and Najeeb Mahfouz have written for the cinema and a number of their novels and short stories adopted to film medium. Though, these novels and stories depict the social life in the country and reveal the untold details of the Woman's daily life in Egypt. The very first two authentic Egyptian films appeared in 1925. The first one based upon the Egyptian novel "Zaynab" and the second on "Layla" were produced and co-directed by the Egyptian actress Aziza Amir. The two films treated the issue of women and their role in the Egyptian society. Both films portrayed the actress as a week person with no ability to take actions or to initiate any responsible decision. "It was an unfortunate starting" confirmed Atef Al Tayeb (1986), one of the outstanding directors in the Egyptian film history.

These films and others like them considered as a good start for film productions. However, they set up a weak model for such unpleasant social treatment. They, also, sent a wrong message to the film-goers and the whole society that what they watch on the screen is a sheer representation of the Egyptian society. Actors and actresses began to influence the public. Viewers were able to see an open relation between men and women and listen to romantic dialogues on the screen. In a conservative society this was too much of freedom and a representation of social openness. After watching a love story film, young adults were often sexually aroused and psychology prepared to commit any social act that satisfies their immediate desirers. The victims were always women walking in the streets and elsewhere. …

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