Egypt's First Film Poster Exhibition

by Mostafa Darwish (1)

The Exhibition "Egyptian Film Posters From the Thirties to the Sixties" was held at the British Council in Cairo in 1993. It was the first exhibition about the subject in Egypt. Some movies were also screened during the exhibition, foremost among them the newly rediscovered "The little Magician" (2) directed by Mahmoud Khalil Rached, and acted by his son.

Exhibition Poster

The exhibition featured a live show of a street poster painter at work. This craft was disappearing fast primarily as a result of new technologies for both printing and enlarging. Soon afterwards most posters became digitally printed photographic collages.

The following text is taken from the exhibition pamphlet:

"The story of Egyptian cinema is a love story between Egyptians and the language of the age; a language which in its symbols and images has something of the spirit of the writings on temple walls and the papyrus of pharaonic days.

"News of the pictures that moved came to Egypt during the last decade of the nineteenth century, arousing curiosity and longing. Yet despite this it was not until some twenty five years after the first moving picture had been screened in Egypt that the first Egyptian film was made. It had to wait until the infrastructure was laid, equipment imported, studios and cinema were built and all this was not easy in Egypt.

"The story began with the return of Mohamed Bayoumi from Germany where he had studied film making and cinematography. He was the first Egyptian to produce a film in a magazine format. Called Amoun, it is credited for filming the return of Saad Zaghloul from exile in 1923. In 1924 Bayoumi became the first in Egypt to feature, produce and direct a short film, El Bashkateb "The Senior Clerk," lasting 30 minutes. This film cost 100 LE to make.

"From this beginning the Egyptian film industry began to grow, taking form like some giant in a story from the Thousand and One Nights. A few years after Bayoumi's film was released, Bank Misr established Studio Misr Company for Acting ands Cinema. This, the first fully equipped studio with work systems imported from Hollywood, formed the foundation of Egypt's film business.

"Concurrently, interest in film posters grew. Films needed to be advertised and attempts were made to improve the design of film posters. A good example of a poster from this time is the poster for the film "Love and Revenge" (which was the last movie acted by Asmahane). Sadly , the interest in film poster design was not sustained because of financial limitations and neglect by most recognised artists.

"Now, after almost 70 years of film production which has made the Egyptian cinema first among all Arab and African countries we can witness a real improvement in film poster design. No better example can be found than the poster for "Kit-Kat" designed by Ihab Shaker."

Egyptian poster for Al-Kitkat (1991) designed by Ihab Shaker.

(1) Mostafa Darwish is a respected Egyptian film critic. He was at the head of the censorship bureau when Antonioni's Blow up was screened. He allowed many other movies that were later refused screening or censored.

(2) "The little Magician" was rediscovered in Alexandria in the early 1990s by a cinema researcher Mr. Ossama El Affash. It was restored but has been rarely shown. It is regarded as the first movie in the Arab world to use special effects.