By Edith Wairimu with Ogova Ondego
Published May 1, 2011
The Golden Poster of the Egyptian Cinema by Sameh Fathy is a collection of posters of Egyptian films whose introduction praises it as ‘an act of love for cinema in general and Egyptian cinema in particular.’
Dr Samir Seif, a film director and professor, describes the book merely as an enjoyable cruise through hundreds of publicity posters of more than eight decades of filmmaking. He notes that this is done without any pretension of offering a historical or theoretical analysis.
Written in Arabic with English translations and published in 2009, the book contains posters of films between 1933 and 1999. Its art director is Dr Mohamed Ghazala, another filmmaker and professor.
For a long time, Egypt cinema has been characterised by Affiches or large posters about films drawn by artists to express the type of film using words and picture. Such affichage also had a summary of the films and pictures of the cast. They were used as an attractive way of advertising or publicising films.
The collections in this book are a showcase of great artwork as each poster sends a different message about the film. One can read emotions such as passion, fear, excitement or lust from the faces of the characters on the posters. One of the posters, Sons and Killers (1987), shows faces that communicate shock, pain and pleasure. While most of the pictures will communicate an idea of what the film is about, some will definitely leave you guessing if the film title does not give any clue.
Taking into account the age of some of the posters, it is hard to not recognise the effort, time and energy put in collecting these affiches, preserving and then compiling them into a book that contains both large and small posters of more than 50 films.
The preface in this book acknowledges the lack of properly documented history of Egyptian films. Even though this compilation makes a great effort to preserve material which would have been destroyed ‘the affiches’ it does not give enough information about the films.
This full colour book on glossy art paper is indeed a show case of what cinema is, each colour setting the mood of the cinema on paper! The posters have however been done in Arabic which robs posters of the impact they would have had if the publication were done in a language like English that is well understood by many more people.
Although the book would be a great purchase, a few changes would make it worth holding on to. First of all, the translators needed to have a good command of English and be particularly serious about spelling and grammar. The book would be far much more than it is were more information about the films, their directors, cast and rating included. Having this book with just posters and a title only generates curiosity in the reader to know more about Egyptian films. If not for anything else, The Golden Poster of the Egyptian Cinema is likely to be of interest to collectors or coffee tables.