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: Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery by Jonathan Lamb

Updated 18 November 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery by Jonathan Lamb

  • Lamb traces the cultural impact of scurvy during the 18th-century age of geographical and scientific discovery

Scurvy, a disease often associated with long stretches of maritime travel, generated sensations exceeding the standard of what was normal. Eyes dazzled, skin was morbidly sensitive, emotions veered between disgust and delight. In this book, Jonathan Lamb presents an intellectual history of scurvy unlike any other, probing the speechless encounter with powerful sensations to tell the story of the disease that its victims couldn’t because they found their illness too terrible and, in some cases, too exciting.

Drawing on historical accounts from scientists and voyagers as well as major literary works, Lamb traces the cultural impact of scurvy during the 18th-century age of geographical and scientific discovery. He explains the medical knowledge surrounding scurvy and the debates about its cause, prevention, and attempted cures. He vividly describes the phenomenon and experience of “scorbutic nostalgia,” in which victims imagined mirages of food, water, or home, and then wept when such pleasures proved impossible to consume or reach. 

Lamb argues that a culture of scurvy arose in the colony of Australia, which was prey to the disease in its early years, and identifies a literature of scurvy in the works of such figures as Herman Melville, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Francis Bacon, and Jonathan Swift.

Masterful and illuminating, Scurvy shows how the journeys of discovery in the eighteenth century not only ventured outward to the ends of the earth, but were also an inward voyage into the realms of sensation and passion.