Cinematic Cairo

Nezar AlSayyad


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“A history of urban modernity in Cairo through cinema

The relationship between the city and cinema is formidable. The images and sounds of the city found in movies are perhaps the only experience that many people will have of cities they may never visit. Films influence the way we construct images of the world, and accordingly, in many instances, how we operate within it. Cinematic Cairo: Egyptian Urban Modernity from Reel to Real offers a history of Cairo’s urban modernity using film as the primary source of exploration, and cinematic space as both an analytical tool and a medium of critique. Cairo has provided rich subject material for Egypt’s film industry since the inception of the art form at the end of the nineteenth century. The “reel” city—imagined, perceived, and experienced—provides the spatial domain that mirrors change and allows for an interrogation of the “real” city as it encountered modernity over the course of a century.

Bringing together chapters by architects and art and literary historians, this volume explores this parallel and convergent relationship through two sections. The first uses films from the 1930s to the end of the twentieth century to illustrate the development of a modern Cairo and its modern subjects. The second section is focused on tracing the transformation of the cinematic city under conditions of neoliberalism, religious fundamentalism, and gender tensions. The result is a comprehensive narrative of the urban modernity of one of the most important cities in the Arab world and Global South.”