Book Review: 101 classic Egyptian films you need to watch

Sameh Fathy has compiled a list of 101 must-see movies that represent Egyptian cinema at its best. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 October 2018
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Book Review: 101 classic Egyptian films you need to watch

BEIRUT: Egypt’s cinema industry is one of the oldest in the world. The first full-length film, “Layla,” was made in 1927. It was followed in the 1930s, 40s and 50s by the golden age of Egyptian cinema, which saw an exceptional outpouring of quality movies. Despite the ineluctable decline that followed, Egypt’s film industry remained the world’s third largest up until the 1980s.

Film critic Sameh Fathy has compiled a list of 101 must-see movies that represent Egyptian cinema at its best. First released in Arabic in 2017 as “Ahamm mi’at film wa-film fi-l-sinima Al-misri,” the book was translated into English as “Classic Egyptian Movies” and published recently by the American University in Cairo Press.

The book offers an unparalleled introduction to Egyptian cinema. “I made a few observations worth sharing, of which the most important is that Egypt’s pre-eminent novelist, Naguib Mahfouz, was in addition a prolific screenwriter. He also tops the list of authors whose stories have been most often adapted for film,” Fathy wrote.

Egypt has been lauded as one of the main cultural hotspots in the Arab world and produces an estimated 75 percent of the movies in the region, according to the book. However, Egyptian cinema is still largely unknown in the West, while Hollywood films are always popular in the Arab world. Despite the failure to break into the Western world, Egyptian films act as a powerful unifying device in Arab culture and to this day people from all walks of life never tire of watching old movies.

From classic comedies such as “Salam Is Fine” to adaptations of literature like “Call of the Curlew” and dramas like “The Second Wife,” Fathy guides readers through the world of Egyptian cinema, including the writers, producers, directors and stars who shaped the industry.

Of particular interest are the visuals that litter the book — vintage film posters and grainy stills punctuate the text, offering readers a glimpse into the cinemas of yesteryear.

These movies are part and parcel of world heritage and their recognition is long overdue.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Way of Nature by C. C. Tsai

Updated 18 June 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Way of Nature by C. C. Tsai

  • The Way of Nature brings together all of Tsai’s beguiling cartoon illustrations of the Zhuangzi

C. C. Tsai is one of Asia’s most popular cartoonists, and his editions of the Chinese classics have sold more than 40 million copies in over 20 languages. This volume presents Tsai’s delightful graphic adaptation of the profound and humorous Daoist writings of Zhuangzi, some of the most popular and influential in the history of Asian philosophy and culture.

The Way of Nature brings together all of Tsai’s beguiling cartoon illustrations of the Zhuangzi, which takes its name from its author. The result is a uniquely accessible and entertaining adaptation of a pillar of classical Daoism, which has deeply influenced Chinese poetry, landscape painting, martial arts, and Chan (Zen) Buddhism.

The Way of Nature presents the memorable characters, fables, and thought experiments of Zhuangzi like no other edition, challenging readers to dig beneath conventional assumptions about self, society, and nature, and pointing to a more natural way of life. Through practical insights, Zhuangzi shows why returning to the spontaneity of nature is the only sane response to a world of conflict.