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Hot scenes, political reasons, and contempt for religions. Learn about the boldest Egyptian films banned from movie theatres

For more than 110 years, Egyptian cinema has produced at least 4,000 films, some of which have never been seen by the public, some of which have been banned from showing in cinemas for a long time, and others are still banned from television to this day. These films did not appear either because they violate public morals, or because they contain scenes hostile to the heavenly religions, and some of them were even banned from showing for political reasons.

In case the censorship is only related to cinema in your mind, then you are completely wrong, as censorship appeared in Egypt several years before the cinema entered, specifically in 1881, when a law on censorship was issued. In 1904, cinema was added to the censorship law, while theater did not join the law until 1911.

The censors interfered with the artwork, whether by modifying the scenes or deleting them permanently, as well as sometimes interfering to prevent entire films from being shown. Although these films were prevented from showing on cinema and television screens, some of them found another way to spread through websites and social media platforms. In this article, we will review the most prominent films that were banned from showing in Egypt.

  •  The Prophet Muhammad.

Censorship used to be on the lookout for films, even before they were filmed and shown, which is what happened with the movie “The Prophet Muhammad”, which a foreign company tried to produce in 1926,  starring Youssef Wehbe. However, as soon as he announced his signing of the contract with director Wedad Orfi, Youssef Wehbe faced strong opposition and continuous attack, reaching the point of calling for a fatwa to denounce him from the Islamic religion, withdraw his citizenship and expel him from Egypt.

The censors announced that the idea of the film is subject to ban because it violates the sanctity of heavenly religions. This film was the reason for Al-Azhar to issue a fatwa prohibiting the personification of the prophets and companions. Which made Youssef Wehbe apologize to the producing company for participating in the film.

  •  The Tragedy of Life

The movie “The Tragedy of Life”, which was produced in 1929, is the first movie that was completely banned from showing in the history of Egyptian cinema at the request of censors, due to sexual scenes and pornographic dancing. Although the film was silent, and the dialogue was written on the screen, the dialogue sentences were obscene. This prompted Abd al-Salam al-Nabulsi, who was working as an art critic at the time, to launch a press campaign to demand that the film be banned until the censors responded.

The film starred an Egyptian actor and director of Turkish origin, Wedad Orfi, and Turkish dancer, Ifranz Hanim. Its events revolve around a playful dancer who seeks to make two brothers fall in love with her to deceive them to get their money.

  • Lachine

In 1938, the movie “Lachine” was shown, directed by German Fritz Kramp, starring Hassan Ezzat, Hussein Riad, and Nadia Naji, and the film revolves around Lachine, who is the army chief, and is characterized by justice, unlike the prime minister, who profits from his position at the expense of the people, and Lachine tries to alert the weak ruler with polygamous relationships to what the Prime Minister is doing, so Lachine is framed, and he is imprisoned.

The film was prevented from showing after politicians told King Farouk that the film was intended for him, so he asked Ahmed Hassanein Pasha, the head of the court, to issue a decision to stop showing the film.

  • Sheikh Hassan

The movie “Sheikh Hassan” was banned from showing three times, as it was initially shown under the name “Laylat al-Qadr”, and the film dealt with the story of the religious Sheikh who leaves his home after a dispute with his father, and marries a Christian girl despite the opposition of her family. It stars Hussein Sidqi, Laila Fawzy, and Huda Sultan. It was banned for the first time because of what was reported to be inciting sedition between Christians and Muslims.

After the July 23 revolution, the artist Hussein Sedky demanded that the film be shown again, but he met with many objections again, so President Mohamed Naguib ordered the film to be removed from the theaters. In 1954, Hussein Sidqi added some new scenes to the film, and changed its name to “Sheikh Hassan”, then requested permission to show it. The Egyptian Catholic Center for Cinema once again objected to the film’s showing. President Gamal Abdel Nasser was afraid that the film’s continuation would affect its popularity among Christians, so it ordered it to be removed from theaters for the third time, and the film has remained banned from showing until this day.

  • My father is up there

When we mention the phrase forbidden to be shown, the movie “My Father is up there” is the first movie that comes to mind. The film sparked a lot of controversy at the time of its release and was prevented by censorship after it set the record for the number of kisses that appeared in one movie, as the film contained more than 50 kisses between its heroes Abdel Halim Hafez, Nadia Lutfi, and Mervat Amin.

The events of the film revolve around a university student who meets a dancer in a nightclub and falls in love with him and convinces him to live with her and spend her money on him. Same nightclub. The film was produced in 1969, and it is the story of the writer Ihsan Abdel Quddus.

  • Strangers

The movie “Strangers” boldly touched on many religious issues that were silenced due to fear of creating confusion, and took a philosophical character for several phenomena, including religious extremism and the conflict between faith and atheism. The film was banned for fear of angering the public, as some critics argued that it might push young people to atheism.

The movie “Strangers” starring Soad Hosni, Hussein Fahmy, Ezzat Al-Alayli, and Imad Hamdi, directed by Saad Arafa, and produced in 1973. It is forbidden to be shown to this day, and although there is a copy of the movie on the Internet, it is not the full version of the movie, as many scenes have been deleted.

  • Hammam Al Malatili

The movie “Hammam El Malatili”, which was produced in 1973, is one of the most famous cinematic works that were banned from showing, as its story revolves around a young man who meets a night girl and a flaming love story develops between them. The young man works in Hammam al-Malatili in the aesthetic and gets acquainted closely with the world of homosexuality, and he also falls into a sinful relationship with the wife of the owner of the hammam. The film is directed by Salah Abu Seif and starring Shams Al-Baroudi, Youssef Shaaban, and Muhammad Al-Arabi.

The censors banned the film from being shown because of its immoral content, and its explicit scenes, in addition to its discussion of the issue of homosexuality. In the 1990s, the censors allowed the film to be shown in cinemas again after many scenes were deleted. However, it is still banned from showing on television until now.

  • The guilty ones.

The latest movie “The Guilty Ones” revolves around a murder in which a famous actress is a victim, and the police begin to investigate all those related to the murder victim, to reveal her branching relationships with people of great influence and power, and it becomes clear that each of them has a crime of corruption no less horrific than murder. Because it contained a large number of daring sexual scenes, in addition to addressing the issue of corruption in the regime, the film, directed by Saeed Marzouk and starring Suhair Ramzy, Hussein Fahmy, Zubaida Tharwat, and Kamal Al-Shennawi, was banned. The film is based on the novel by the great writer Naguib Mahfouz and was produced in 1975.

The Censorship Authority for Artistic Works faced a major crisis at the time, because of its approval to show this film, as the head of the agency, moderate excellent, was referred to the pension, and she and 14 others from the agency were transferred to the Supreme Disciplinary Court by order of President Sadat, on charges of a grave breach of the duties of the job. A decision was also issued to tighten the basic rules of censorship of artistic works, which filmmakers considered a crime against Egyptian cinema.

  • Karnak.

The movie “Al-Karnak” dealt with the issue of the repressive practices of the intelligence services, through the story of a group of university students who are arrested and tortured, and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit, and some of them are forced to work as spies inside the university for the security services. The film is directed by Ali Badrakhan, starring Soad Hosni, Nour Al-Sharif, Kamal Al-Shennawi, Farid Shawqi, Shwikar, and Muhammad Sobhi, and was produced in 1975.

Because of the film, Salah Nasr, the former head of intelligence, filed a lawsuit, demanding that it stop showing on the pretext that the film embodies his character through the role of the security man presented by artist Kamal El-Shennawy. The film also met with Youssef El Sebaei, the Minister of Culture at the time, and demanded that the character of the left-wing intellectual be removed by the artist Mohamed Sobhi. The film was only allowed to be shown after changing its ending and deleting some scenes, but the original scenes were shown after the approval of President Anwar Sadat after he met with the scriptwriter Mamdouh Al-Leithi.

  • Khamsa Bab

The movie “Khamsa Bab” is adapted from the foreign film “Irma la Doss”, produced in 1983, starring Adel Imam, Nadia Al-Jundi, and Fouad Al-Muhandis, and directed by Nader Jalal. Its events take place inside the prostitution neighborhood in Cairo, where a policeman resists corruption and bullying inside the neighborhood until a trap is set up for him and he is dismissed from his work in the police, so he joins one of the dens of vice to help arrest the neighborhood thug.

Although the film obtained the approval of the censorship, it was banned only 5 days after it was shown in cinemas, by a decision issued by the Minister of Culture, because of the insults to Egypt’s reputation and its indecent scenes. This prompted the film’s producer to file a case in court and obtained a decision to release the film 8 years after its premiere.

  • The Innocent.

The film “The Innocent” was directed by Atef Al-Tayeb, which starred Ahmed Zaki, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Jamil Ratib, and Mamdouh Abdel Alim, and was produced in 1986, is considered one of the most controversial Egyptian films. The film dealt with the concept of military obedience through a conscript who joins the armed forces. And he works as a prison guard, and he is deluded that everyone in the prison is the enemy of the homeland, and he is also taught blind obedience. Until his friend is arrested and placed in the same prison, the conscript refuses to torture his friend, and the truth is revealed to him and regrets what he did to the innocent prisoners, and decides to take revenge, especially after killing his friend.

The film faced the objection of many parties, including the Censorship Authority on Artistic Works and the Ministries of Defense and Interior, and the censors insisted on changing the events of the end. Indeed, the film was shown with a different ending, and the original ending was not allowed to be shown until 19 years later, at the opening of the 2005 National Film Festival.

  • The Monk

The film “The Monk” reveals the nature of the life of monks in the Christian faith, who secede from the world and live without a wife or children. It is one of the films that was banned even before the end of filming. Despite the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope Shenouda to show the film, a decision was issued by President Anwar El-Sadat to ban its screening permanently, with all filmmakers threatening to expel outside Egypt if filming is completed, for fear of sect strife among the segments of society, especially after sectarian strife. That occurred in Egypt after the famous “Khanka” incident, which occurred in 1972.

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