The Arab cinemas are both the product and the expression of a long and unresolved struggle for the control of the image, for the power to define identity. That identity is clearly rooted in the crossroads of culture of the region, extending as it does between Europe and Black Africa, between the Atlantic and the Arabian Gulf, but also between the city and countryside and desert ... between a colonial past and a nominally independent present."
- film critic Mariam Rosen
History and development
The early years of Arab cinema
From the first Egyptian film in 1925
The new Arab cinema
From the 1960s onwards ... films with a social conscience
The struggle to be seen
Censored films, exiled directors - and the problems of reaching a mass audience
A timeline of key developments from 1897 to 2007 (in French)
A page about the great Egyptian film director
Arab Film Distribution
Based in the United States, Arab Film Distribution robably has the largest selection of Arab films for home viewing or showing to audiences.
The 10 best Arab films
Omar al-Qattan. The Guardian, 6 July 2013
Five beautiful films that finally give Middle Eastern women the voice they deserve
Chelsea Hawkins. arts.mic, 1 November 2013
Films set in the Middle East
How western cinema portrays the Middle East
Articles about Arab cinema
The rise and fall of Moroccan cinema
Nadir Bouhmouch and Elias Terrass. Al-Jazeera, 17 November 2017
Bringing the horror film industry to the Middle East
Alexander Schinis, Muftah, 1 August 2016
Islam in Western Cinema
Roger Ebert. Far Flung Correspondents, August 2016
- Part 1: The Exotic Muslim, from the Exotic Land
- Part 2: The Violent, Militant Muslim
- Part 3: The Pious Muslim
- Part 4: The Journey through American Islam
Popcorn revolution in Saudi Arabia? Kingdom mulls the return of cinemas
Brian Whitaker, 11 November 2014
Wadjda, Saudi Arabia's first female film, is country's Oscar entry
Xan Brooks. The Guardian, 16 September 2013
Secret cinema gently subverts Saudi Arabia's puritanism
David Batty. The Guardian, 15 October 2012
Saudi Arabia: Ceci n'est pas un cinema
Brian Whitaker, 2 December 2010
Filmmaker in the land of no cinema
Caryle Murphy. The National, 13 July 2010
Cut! The Jeddah film festival is stopped
Brian Whitaker, 20 July 2009
Cartoons herald return of cinema to Saudi Arabia
Brian Whitaker. The Guardian, 19 October 2005
The legacy of Salah Abu Seif, master of realism in Egyptian cinema
Al-Jadid magazine, Vol. 3, No. 15 (February 1997)
Father of neo-realism in Egyptian cinema passes away
With the death of Atef al-Tayeb, Egyptian cinema lost one of its prominent figures. Al-Jadid magazine, Vol.1, No. 1, (December 1995).
Here is a collection of YouTube videos of Arab films based on classic novels, selected by the ArabLit website. The films can be viewed online.
The Sixth Day, 1986
Directed by Youssef Chahine, based on a novel by the Lebanese author Andrée Chedid.
The Impossible (al-Moustahil), 1965
Directed by Hussein Kamal, based on Mostafa Mahmoud’s 1960 novel of the same name.
A Touch of Fear (Shay' min al-Khawf), 1969)
Based on a novella of the same name by Egyptian “Knight of the Arabic Novel” Tharwat Abaza.
Directed by Kamal el-Sheikh and based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Naguib Mahfouz.
The Mountain (al-Jabal), 1965
Directed by Khalil Shawki and based on Fathi Ghanem’s debut novel, published in 1958.
The Open Door, 1964
Directed by Henry Barakat, based on the 1960 novel by pioneering author-activist Latifa al-Zayyat.
The Water Carrier is Dead (Al-Saqqa Mat), 1977
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on the novel by Yusuf al-Sibai.
The Collar and the Bracelet (al-Tuq wal Iswar), 1986
Directed by Khairy Beshara, based on a novella by Yahya Taher Abdallah
Al-Ard (The Land), 1970.
Directed by Youssef Chahine, based on a 1954 novel by Abd al-Rahman al-Sharqawi.
Al-Haram (The Sinners), 1965.
Directed by Henry Barakat, based on a novel by Yusuf Idris
Ana Hurra (I’m Free), 1958.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on a novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous
Bidaya wa Nihaya (A Beginning and an End), 1960.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz
Al-Khubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone), 2005.
Directed by Rachid Benhadj, based on the novel by Mohamed Choukri
Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), 1999.
Directed by Yousry Nasrallah, based on the novel by Elias Khoury
Al-Makhdu'oun (The Dupes / The Duped / The Deceived), 1972.
Directed by Tawfiq Saleh, based on Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun
Yawmiyat Na'ib fil-Ariaf Kamil (Diary of a Country Prosecutor), 1968.
Directed by Tawfiq Saleh, based on a novel by Tawfiq al-Hakim
Tharthara fawq an-Nil (Adrift on the Nile), 1971.
Directed by Hussein Kamal, based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz
Du'a' al-Karwan (A Nightingale’s Prayer), 1959.
Directed by Henry Bakarat, based on a novel by Taha Hussein
Al-Kit Kat (Kit Kat), 1991.
Directed by Daoud Abdel Sayed, based on the novel The Heron by Ibrahim Aslan
Al-Muwatan al-Masri (The Egyptian Citizen), 1991.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on Yusuf al-Qa’id’s award-winning novel, War in the Land of Egypt
Qandil Umm Hashem (The Lamp of Umm Hashem), 1968.
Directed by Kamal Attiya, inspired by a novella by Yahia Haqqi
Arab Film Festival
Established in 1996, the Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the United States. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world. It aims "to enhance understanding of Arab culture and provide alternative representations of Arabs that contradict stereotypes frequently encountered in the American mass media while fostering a space for independent Arab filmmakers to screen their work for the public".
Cairo International Film Festival
Held annually since 1976 (except for 2011 and 2013), this is the oldest international film festival in the Arab world..
Carthage Film Festival
(Journees Cinematographiques de Carthage)
Held annually in Tunis since 2014 (previously biannually alternating with the Carthage Theatre).
Marrakech International Film Festival
Held annually in Marrakech, Morocco, since 2001
Dubai International Film Festival
A festival established by Dubai Media City in 2004 with the aim of showcasing contemporary and classic global cinema.
Beirut International Film Festival
Held annually in Beirut since 1997.