Saturday, February 25, 2006

Black and White Egyptian Movies Make My Weekend Mornings

I woke up this morning with a strong urge to watch one of those old Egyptian movies that I have here. I am keeping some DVDs and VCR tapes for some new and old Egyptian movies. Egyptian black and white movies are among other things that I consider favorites in life. In Egypt, after very hectic working week days, my only wish during weekends will be a two-hour black and white Egyptian movie. I would lie together with my lazy cat on the same couch to watch black and white Egyptian movies. Because usually the movies have been seen by all the family members, including me, 200 times, they cannot join me to watch the whole movie with me. They come and go trying to convince me to change channels, but in vain, I am programmed.

Today, I decided to watch one of the sweetest funniest movies, “Zezi’s Family”. The movie stars my favorite movie stars; Soad Hosni, Foad Al Mohandes, Ahmed Ramzi and Aeala Rateb. Every sentence makes me laugh, especially those of Foad Al Mohandes. His mother, brother and sisters were trying to teach him how to flirt with woman to marry him off. However, he is acting like a funny virgin.

I prepared my frosted corn flaks and my strong Egyptian coffee (what is known as Turkish coffee) to watch my favorite movie. I have to admit they make me feel so homesick, so I do not dare to watch them frequently.

The reason why I love those movies is because I see the life that I wish to see in Egypt. It is full of social freedoms and women are pretty, fashionable and free. In this movie, Ahmed Ramzi and his neighbor who are in love are practicing Yoga. Three years ago, the grand Sheikh of Al Azhar said Yoga is “Haram”, means forbidden in Islam, because it is a pagan activity. The movie depicts the character of the mother as the pillar of the family. It is true, in Egypt, the women play a very strong role in the family. The man pretends to be the super hero of the Egyptian family when in reality it is the women who plays a very effective role whether a wife, mother, grandmother and sister.

It is just nice to see the beautiful Egypt, even if in old movies.

The photo is for Soad Hosni (middle), Ahmed Ramzi (right) and Foad Al Mohandes (left)


At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear FFE,

Egyptian black and white films are indeed generally very enjoyable and remarkable for their high level of quality as compared to their western counterparts more than 50 years ago.

Some of them did explore social issues from a humorous yet mildly thought-provoking manner.

One serious drawback of Egyptian black and white films is their explicit racism in the vein of early Hollywood in segregationist America.

How much has changed?

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Seneferu said...

What "explicit racism" do you speak of?

At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I loved your blog. Your feelings reflect the feelings of many Egyptians living in the West. We are working like crazy (unlike what most people in Egypt think we are doing) and then all we need is to connect to Egypt through a good old Egyptian film.
Egyptian in Germany

At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Khalidah said...

WOW ... I love these oldies .. they are a 1000 times better than new movies ...
Also the stars; great heritage Egypt .. one that made us love your country and crave visiting it over and over :D

At 4:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The explicit racism that I mention is present in many Egyptian golden oldies. Examples include, amongst others:

Black face painting,
Jungle-themed noises,
Primitive tribalism in some films,
The image of stupid, gullible, laughable, contemptuous 'Osman' the Nubian.

These factors, amongst others, are present in many Egyptian black and white films (particularly Ismail Yasin's) - and the butt of the racist humour is the dark-skinned person.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Freedom for Egyptians said...

The Egyptian Movie industry has never been racist. The Egyptian movie industry grew before the American Hollywood industry.

The Egyptian movie Industry encompassed all movie partners from the entire world as well as the Middle East.

I only get to know Egyptian Jew citizens from my old movies. I saw nationalized Greeks, Armanians ... etc in the Egyptian movies. Egypt was open to Lebanese, Syrian, and any nationality that wanted to be part of our industry. And it was blooming because of this encompassing inclusive spirit. Iran movies reflect and Iranian spirit.

Egypt does not have jungles or tribes to depict in our movies. Movies are part of the culture of any society. And Egypt in the early 19th century was more mediterreanian to its unique free economy and many other cultural factors and we are proud of that. Ali El Kassar was a very successful character and its success guaranteed audience and continuity, though he does not reflect 100% Egyptians. And it was meant for the diversity. A value many countries are trying to incorporate in their communities.

At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Freedom for Egyptians,

I have much respect for what you are doing with this blog but I am also shocked at your level of denial on this issue.

Firstly - the Egyptian film industry is 'not' older than the American film industry / Hollywood.

The Great Train Robbery which isn't even the first American cinematic production, but the first huge success of American cinema, was made in 1903.
I do not believe that films were being made in Egypt at that point.

Dear FFE:
Racism is not a selective thing.

The definition of racism is:

'or racialism; is a form of discrimination based on race, especially the belief that one race is superior to another. Racism may be expressed individually and consciously, through explicit thoughts, feelings, or acts, or socially and unconsciously, through institutions that promote inequality between races.'

One cannot be serious in saying that the Egyptian film industry was not racist because it comprised Caucasian Armenians, Phoenician Lebanese, Arab Syrians and Semitic Jews, whilst 'parodying' and 'denigrating' blacks.

Racism against one particular ethnic group is precisely what it is, regardless of how open an institution is to other ethnic groups.

I have seen more than one Egyptian film where the 'cannibal' scene was depicted - scared Egyptians in a bubbling cauldron, actors who have been painted with what looks like black shoe polish wearing animal print loin cloths, the same actors having big round red lipstick blobs around their mouths, shouting 'uga-buga-uga-buga'.

As for the jungle theme - I am sure that you are aware that even back then, in the world of cinematography, one did not need real jungles to portray blacks as savages...

So FFE, what do you think about that? You think it was promoting diversity?

I hope that you'll use the same stringent western values that you so dearly cherish when evaluating this issue and draw from the experiences of the west in dealing with race relations, particularly in the media.

At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonym (4:12am),

I read with interest your point. However, I would like to ask you not to ''nut-pick'' certain shots or episodes of certain movies, as being a sign of a racist industry. I can provide you many shots of Hollwood block-buster films, old and new, that depict certain races and certain religious affiliations in a very negative light. Let us say the movie-industry in the old days of Egypt reflected the diversity of society, despite some minor elements, which are present in any society.
Egyptian in Germany

At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Egyptian in Germany,

Thank you for your point.

The minor elements that are present in any society are not commendable, nor can they be used to justify such behaviour in any particular society. Two wrongs never make a right.

As regards the old Hollywood blockbusters that are racist, one would be very hard pressed to find a wsterner 'defending' those types of films. There is no logic or moral persuasion that can defend the indefensible.

As regards contemporary Hollywood films, there are legal channels in the west through which complaints and even law suits can be lodged against the makers of those films.

And finally as regards nitpicking, I do not believe that I was nitpicking, I gave various examples including stupid, thick, gullible, laughable, contemptuous 'Osman' the Nubian.

One can survey black and white Egyptian films to see the types of roles, dialogue and acts that blacks were typecasted in and there is an overwhelming, if not comlete trend towards blacks in Egyptian black and white films being portrayed negatively, denigrated, parodied and sullied.

How this can be reconciled with promoting diversity I am not even able to imagine...

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ha heard about a movie they call it (Salata Baladi) will you please tell me where I can get that movie. Many thanks for a quick reply.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Around 1045 or so, Cairo was elected as second nicest and cleanest city after Berlin. At this time NY was not even picked since it was a symbol of dirtiness and vulgarity (see Gangs of NY if you want to know more of what was going). Any way, let us now think about for a while, if Cairo to be selected top on a list what this would be, sure some years ago Cairo was selected top of list of most noisiest dirty and with highest pollution rate ever so it would join similar cities. Now again what is the difference, it it simple the difference is that at the time Egypt was second nicest city on the world, Egypt was a kingdom like UK and Cairo was as London, we were top and our currency was ranked even higher than the Golden Pound and the English one. We were fooled to believe that we needed a change brought by some Army officers, we were fooled and eat it and now we are paying for it.
We had a king but her never interfered with politics, example, Sad Zaglool was active politician and against the English and king but he was promoted to Pasha or Bay and so, Look what is hapening to Some one like him today, Ayman Noor where is he?
I hope you see what big escrowed up we have here....
We went to a dead end but we still moving toward the end ..


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