Egypt to document cinematic heritage

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The National Center for Cinema is set up to digitize the archives, files and documents of employees in the Egyptian film industry.

The project aims to digitize the files from 800 major movie stars and artists including Faten Hamama, Shoukry Sarhan, Adel Imam, Ahmed Zaki, Mahmoud Abdel Azizi, Mahmoud Yassin, Soad Hosny, Gamil Ratib, Shwikar, Laila Elwi, Nabila Ebeid and many more.

It is done through the Cinematic Culture Center and overseen by Egyptian screenwriter and film critic Magdy al-Shahry.

The project also includes the files and documents of those who have played an important role in the Egyptian film industry, especially directors Youssef Chahine, Hassan al-Imam, Henry Barakat, Atef el-Tayeb, Mohamed Khan, Ali Badrakhan, Mohamed Karim, Kamal el-Sheikh, Shadi Abdel Salam, Ashraf Fahmy, Mohamed Fadel, Yahya al-Alami, Houssam El-Din Mustafa and others.

The project also includes the names of prominent screenwriters, most notably world-renowned writer Naguib Mahfouz, Abdel-Hay Adib, Mahfouz Abdel Rahman, Mohamed al-Basousy, Wahid Hamed, Lenin al-Ramly, Mostafa Moharam and others. The names of filmmakers also appear in the documentation project, most notably Wahid Farid, Mohsen Nasr, Abdel Aziz Fahmy, Ramses Marzouk, Mohsen Ahmed, Abdel Halim Nasr, Saeed Shaimi and Sameh Selim.

As for the names of set and production designers in Egyptian cinema, the project includes Shadi Abdel Salam, Onsi Abou Seif, Salah Marei, Nohad Bahgat and others.

In a statement released Speaking to the National Center for Cinema’s Facebook page on July 8, Shahry, who is also the director general of the Cinematic Culture Center, said the project is part of the Ministry of Culture’s efforts to explore the history of the to preserve Egyptian film industry. The film archive contains more than 1,400 files and documents from artists and workers in the sector, which will be digitized and preserved on CDs, he added.

Mohammed Youssef al-Sharif, a film critic and chairman of the board of the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics, praised the project, considering it a major step that should have been taken many years ago.

“More than 10 years ago, there were consultations and studies to create a cinema hall that would be overseen by the National Center for Cinema. The cinema room would contain all copies of Egyptian films produced in the past 125 years,” Sharif told Al-Monitor.

“We also wanted to keep the machines used in filming, in addition to the old movie posters and photographic films and everything related to the film industry, as well as television and radio production. But so far nothing has happened on the ground,” he added.

Sharif continued: “Two years ago there was a meeting between senior and young film officials, some of whom were part of the lost history of Egyptian cinema and still have tangible memories of this history. When I asked them to share these memories and the documents they had – which are of great importance to filmmakers around the world and not just in Egypt – I was surprised to learn that they no longer had them. This is because when they present their products to the public at a festival at home or abroad, the National Center for Cinema has the right to use these materials without returning them to their owners.”

“If owners want to showcase their works, they need permission from the center, which sadly wiped out most of ancient Egyptian cinema history over the years and didn’t lift a finger when two Arab companies bought the assets of the most important historical films. , despite the fact that they are a big part of Egyptian cinema history,” he added.

An Egyptian film producer who spoke on condition of anonymity had harsh words for the practices of the National Center for Cinema. He told Al-Monitor over the phone, “How can the National Center for Cinema have the right to document and register content in its name without violating the copyrights of heritage owners? How could it provide content for public and cultural purposes without referring to the owner first, and why should artistic works be registered in the name of the center?How can the center have the right to digitize cinema content and use it for cultural purposes without the permission of the owners?”

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