What We Are Reading Today: Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity

Updated 09 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity

  • First published in 1998, this book has become an indispensable work for scholars of film and the contemporary Middle East

Cinema is returning to Saudi Arabia — and Saudi Arabia is turning to cinema, as the Kingdom’s movie industry is to be showcased for the first time in Cannes at the 71st Film Festival, which opened this week.

Since its birth, film has been deeply entrenched in the Middle East, not least because it is such an obvious descendant of Arab storytelling and literary traditions. 

First published in 1998, this book has become an indispensable work for scholars of film and the contemporary Middle East, offering a comprehensive overview of cinema in the Arab world, tracing the industry’s development from colonial times to the present. 

The strong focus on Egyptian cinema is understandable since more than half of all Arab films originated there, and Shafik also examines the effects of that market dominance. But she also looks at films made by other Arab nations, exploring the differences and similarities among them.

The author also explains the historical, political, religious and economic context that decides what films are made, how they are made and where they are shown. The book has been updated to reflect cultural shifts in the past 20 years, highlighting the latest developments in film-making, especially in Iraq, the Gulf states, Lebanon and Palestine. 


What We Are Watching Today: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 

Updated 21 May 2018
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What We Are Watching Today: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 

In Venezuela, where elections took place on Sunday, the legacy of the late firebrand socialist leader Hugo Chavez still dominates the country.

President Nicolas Maduro was the hand-picked successor to Chavez and campaigns on a platform of continuing the “Chavismo” policies.

Those policies have plunged the country into a deep economic crisis, despite it having some of the world’s largest oil reserves.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a 2003 documentary, which was filmed by an Irish crew, in the buildup to and during an attempted coup against Chavez in 2002.

It focuses on the role of the private media and the coverage of violent protests.

While it has been accused of pro-Chavez bias, the filmmakers’ close proximity to the unfolding events gives an uncomfortable view of the political schisms that threaten to tear Venezuela apart.