Nagwa Nasr
Last updated: 24 October, 2012

COMMENT: The beginning of the end of Egyptian cinema?

Nagwa Nasr is worried that the rise of radical Islam in Egypt could mean the death of “Hollywood of the Middle east”.

Egypt is often considered as the birthplace of cinema and entertainment in the Middle East. One hundred years ago, in 1912, Egypt was the first country in the Arab world to engage in the cinema industry. After a series of documentary short movies, Egypt released its first full-length feature in 1927 called “Laila”, staring the famous and beautiful singer Laila Mourad.

As the years went by Egypt became known as “Hollywood of the Middle East”, a stronghold of entertainment that attracted actors from all over the Arab world. A number of mesmerizing and wonderful movies were released such as “A woman’s youth”, which participated in Cannes Film Festival during the sixties.

Unfortunately Egyptian cinema started to collapse during the years of the corrupted regime of Mubarak. However, its problems did not end here, today “Hollywood of the Middle East” is facing yet another challenge, embodied in fanatics. The Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood have started a vicious war against actors. Lately, for example, actress Elham Shahine was torn to pieces during a TV show presented by one of the Salafis who called the famous actress “promiscuous” and a prostitute. The presenter called on Egyptian Muslims to stone her to death. This heinous death is justified by the Salafis because of Elham’s career as an actress; these extremists decree prohibition of entertainment, claiming that entertainers are going straight to hell.

This incident, followed by other similar events, raises a lot of questions, such as, is this the beginning of the end of Egyptian cinema? Could this be the beginning of extinction of “Hollywood of the Middle East”?