Languages
Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 12:55 UK

A new start for Egyptian cinema

By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Cairo

Director Adel Adeeb on set
Adeeb sees his company not just as a film maker but as a big media player
A large crowd of fans presses around the celebrities of Arab film as they emerge from one of Cairo's main cinemas after the press screening of the biggest budget movie in the history of the Egyptian film industry.

The film that has just been shown is not one of the formulaic, romantic comedies audiences have come to expect, but a politically-driven, hard-hitting film that will also reach audiences in the West.

As the flash lights pop, the stars of Baby Doll Night are highlighted, many of them veterans of the oldest film industry in the Arab world - and all of them believing that this film will be a next step for an industry that is just climbing out of a severe decline and looking hard for overseas markets.

Egypt has a strong conservative Islamic current that is intolerant of new ideas. Fundamentalists want certain subjects to remain taboo and this prevents creative people from expressing themselves
Ali Abou Shadi
Chief censor

According to Youssef Rizkallah, one of Egypt's most respected film critics, new production companies are shaking up the whole industry.

He cites the company GoodNews4Film as an example of the go-getting Egyptian media giants.

"They are willing to take a risk and win new markets abroad," he says.

"They can do this because they have a whole range of other business interests that allow them to take time to develop scripts and sort out any censorship problems."

Higher revenues

Adel Adeeb of Goodnews4film, producers of Baby Doll Night, says that his company and a couple of other Cairo-based companies are now not just film makers, but media outfits producing and distributing films, but also having their own state-of-the art cinemas and owning radio and television channels, distributing films abroad and most importantly having a comprehensive business plan.

Metro cinema
Egypt's cimema is trying to lose its reputation for melodrama
"It's a matter of calculating how much we can spend on a film depending on whether it will sell abroad," he explains.

"We are always working on a large number of productions at the same time. Some will remain in Egyptian cinemas and then be sold in the Gulf. Others will cross boundaries, like [the internationally distributed 2006 film] Yacoubian Building, and bring in far higher revenues."

To bring in higher revenues, script writers have tackled controversial subjects such as homosexuality, terrorism and police corruption.

Dealing with formerly forbidden topics has become possible because the traditionally conservative censorship board is now headed by a former film critic who is liberal in his approach.

"I believe that political regimes and religious groups use film as a tool to protect their own beliefs or policies," argues Ali Abou Shadi.

"Egypt has a strong conservative Islamic current that is intolerant of new ideas. Fundamentalists want certain subjects to remain taboo and this prevents creative people from expressing themselves. It can be frustrating."

Bringing in audiences

Freedom from restrictive censorship has encouraged young directors to seek to export their world view to the West.

Nour al-Sherif
If we really want international success then we should make co-productions with Europe
Baby Doll Night star Nour al-Sherif
Adel Adeeb, who spent about US $8m on Night of the Baby Doll, claims that the Arab world knows what the West thinks and feels and that it is about time that Egypt let the rest of the world in on how Arabs think.

"Our higher budget films are made in the same way as Europe and the United States make films," he states.

"We will ensure that our films are shown in Western countries because we have agreements with distributors in many countries. Night of the Baby Doll is about the Holocaust, 9/11, Palestine and Iraq, subjects that will bring in audiences everywhere."

But one actor, Nour al-Sherif, who stars in Baby Doll Night, is a little more circumspect.

"If we really want international success then we should make co-productions with Europe. This is really the only way of being sure that a film will travel."



Print Sponsor



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific