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  • Ten Fascinating Egyptian Documentaries to Watch


    Who doesn’t love a good documentary? It’s a way to learn things while simultaneously chilling with a snack – educational entertainment.

    You may have heard of the highly-acclaimed Egyptian documentaries like The Square, but there are loads of others the country has produced that have been featured at film festivals abroad while remaining under the radar at home. Here are ten of them:

    1. The People’s Girls (2016)

    This documentary directed by the makers of this sexual harassment video that went viral further explore the situation in Egypt in this documentary that won ‘Best Documentary Short’ at the San Francisco Arab Film Festival this month.

     2. Who Killed the Armenians? (2015)

    This film about the Armenian genocide was the first of its kind, and produced right here, in Egypt. The 70-minute documentary was shot in Armenia, Egypt & Lebanon, and presents several documents collected from the archives of the countries visited—documents that prove the Ottoman Turks’ barbaric acts against the Armenian nation, beginning with the Hamidian Massacres (1894-1896) and ending with the 1915 genocide.

    3. The Dream of Shahrazad (2014)

    Weaving together music, politics and storytelling, this documentary explores recent political events in Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon through the metaphor of the 1001 Nights tale, looking at the ways in which creativity and political articulation coincide in response to oppression. Drawing on ‘Shahrazad’— the princess who saves lives by telling stories —a youth orchestra conductor, a Cairene storytelling troupe, a troubled Lebanese actress and various others all put art to new political use.

     4. Jews of Egypt (2012)

    This documentary captures fragments of the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century until their second grand exodus after the tripartite attack of 1956. The film poignantly compares and contrasts the Egypt’s cosmopolitan 1940’s and new millennium era.

     5. Electro Chaabi (2013)

    Hind Meddeb chronicles several ‘mahragan’ musicians, namely Sadat, Alaa Fifty, Figo, Okka and Ortega—musicians trying to overcome their disenfranchised youth through stardom. The film sheds light not only on the new wave musical genre, but also on the dilapidated neighbourhoods in which it was born.

     6. Zelal (2010)

    Filmmakers Marianne Khoury and Mustapha Hasnaoui visit two large asylums in Egypt, highlighting the horrible conditions mental health patients are forced to live in. The documentary provides a disconcerting inside-look at the state of mental healthcare in the country.

    7. Um Ghayeb [Mother of the Unborn] (2014)

    Directed by Nadine Salib, this film— set in a forgotten city—  revolves around an infertile woman, Hanan, who yearns for a child. Having no option but to live on the fringe of her community because of her infertility, Hanan lingers between a dream that is slowly slipping away and her struggle to find a place where she belongs. While everything that surrounds her bustles with fertility and mortality, she wonders how to give meaning to the time that she has in between.

     8. The Tentmakers of Cairo (2015)

    Filmed over three years, Kim Beamish’s documentary tells the story of Egypt’s struggle with democracy through the lives of a community of artisans. The film intimately captures interactions of the tentmakers with local, national, and international narratives, blending news media and authentic dialogue with the visual and cultural complexity of ‘Khayamiya’ (Egyptian Tentmaker Applique).

    9. Makan Esmoh Al Watan (2006)

    Four young Egyptians take different paths to find the place they can each call home, in this film directed by Tamer Ezzat. Due to economic, religious or educational reasons, they are faced with difficulties that force them to look for a way out through emigration, or else try to live with the people that surround them.

    10. El Banat Dol (2006)

    Tahani Rached’s documentary follows the tracks of teenage girls living on the streets of Cairo— a universe of violence, but also of freedom. These girls display surprising strength, and mix necessary laughter with the toughness needed to survive day after day. Their days are filled with threats, police raids and kidnappings carried out by their street fellows, as well as fights that sometimes get out of hand…

    If you enjoyed these film recommendations, check out this list of serial killer documentaries too scary to watch alone.

    By Salma Thanatos Rizk