Some might get baffled when they hear the term “Cinema of Women”, as a question arises in their minds: Are they films that deal with women’s issues and problems, or the films that women make to present their opinions and ideas on general issues and topics.
When deliberating Egyptian cinema, you think at first glance that it is based largely on the roles of men, who are the first drivers of events, while women roles seem to be marginalized weak and negative most of the time. However, if you delve into the history of the film industry, you can find the names of many women who played major roles in the founding of Egyptian cinema. Yet, unfortunately with the passage of time their role was marginalized in favor of men, yet some of them remained in desperate attempts to continue improving the image of women in cinema and addressing their issues.
Aziza Amir … the producer of the first Egyptian film
One of the most prominent names is Aziza Amir, who established “Studio Heliopolis” and presented the first Egyptian film in history, in 1927, entitled “Layla”, which she wrote its script herself in addition to directing and producing it.
This was not all what Aziza Amir did. Although, she only produced the movie “Atonement for Your Sin” in 1933, she did not stop writing, producing and acting for 25 years.
In addition to her role as a pioneer in Egyptian cinema, Aziza Amir helped other women to enter this field. At a time when the work of women in cinema was something that was scoffed at by society, considering it a bold act that did not fit with the customs and traditions of the Egyptian family.
She was followed in her footsteps by Asia Dagher, who became an incomparable influence in the film industry, after establishing the film production company “Lotus” that continued in business for half a century.
We cannot overlook other influential female characters such as Bahija Hafez, Fatima Rushdie, and Mary Queenie, who each presented a group of films that had a positive social goal.
Faten Hamama, advocate for women’s rights
For a long time, the image of women in cinema receded either in the role of the maid, the dancer, or in the role of the mother and the kind girl who lives a love story with the hero.
However, that image morphed in the fifties and sixties, and the prominent actress Faten Hamama played a role in improving the image of women in cinema, as she contributed to raising important issues related to women in many of her films, such as discussing women employment in “Advocate Fatima” in 1952, and crimes of honour in “Doaa Karawan” in 1959. The participation of women in political life in “The Open Door” in 1963. The issue of the mother who bears the burdens of the family alone in “The M Empire”.
During that period, a group of actresses who made films of interest to Egyptian women appeared, such as Magda in “Where did my life go” and “Adolescent Girls”, Nadia Lotfi in “The Black Glasses” and “For Men Only”, Shadia in “Some Fear” and “My wife is the boss.”, last but not least Lubna Abdel Aziz in “Al-Ibeeb” and “I Am Free”.
Inas El-Deghidi: “A woman that did not do herself justice”
During the eighties, women’s films were limited to presenting the problems and concerns of the middle and rich class, such as “Hind and Camelia’s Dreams”, “The Virgin and White Hair”, “The Apartment is the Wife’s Right” and “The Wife of an Important Man”. The situation becomes even worse in the entrepreneurship films of the 1990s, which have become commercial films that superficially display the role of women and distance themselves from social issues of concern to women.
We find Inas El-Deghidi with her films that offend women and detract from their role in life, and despite Inas El-Deghidi’s keenness at the beginning of her film career to present pro-women works, to the point of considering changing some laws and customs in the country, as happened with the movie “Sorry, O Law.” Who discussed honor crimes and their judicial rulings that provide for a lenient ruling in cases of men killing their wives in case they are caught red-handed with adultery. While the verdict with severe penalties that may reach the death penalty if the perpetrator of the murder is the wife who saw her husband in the act.
However, most of Inas El Deghidi’s films were limited to featuring women in the roles of seduction, such as “Cheap Meat”, “Dantella” and “The Red Rose”, as well as teenage films such as “Disco” and “Teen Diaries”.
We cannot ignore the random films, which completely distorted the role of women, by showing distorted relations between men and women, which appeared as if their poverty, need for money or safety always pushed them to give up their honor and principles, such as the films “Heen Maysra”, “When life gets better” and “Halawet Rouh”.
Did modern cinema succeed in achieving justice for women?
Despite the different opinions about the concept of “women’s cinema”, we can agree that the discussion of women’s issues and their role in society did not develop with the passage of years. On the contrary, it became worse and shallow, of course with some exceptions from time to time. Women such as “678”, “Taymour and Shafiqa” and “Ihki Ya Shahrazad” performed well at the box office, while other films such as “Asmaa”, “Two Girls from Egypt” and “The Factory Girl” had little success.
Despite these desperate attempts by modern filmmakers to do justice to women, they did not produce the results expected of them, and we still have long strides to go so that we can overcome the distorted image that the image of women has become in Egyptian cinema during the past decades.