Egypt/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

The new partnerships or new forms of cooperation only emerged recently as if cultural exchange, dialogue between cultures, bringing different cultural identities and spaces closer and getting past geographical, informational and cultural boundaries is a universal plague.

The symptoms of this plague have reached Egypt but are yet to spread, which made various forms of cooperation to be conducted cautiously and on a very small scale, given that a sense of cultural superiority associated with cautiousness is dominant in Egypt, not to mention that the state itself doesn’t always welcome the things that are indistinct to it.

Nevertheless, some scattered and random forms of cooperation exist, most notably the workshops conducted in almost all fields of arts. The impact of these workshops however is not visible given the short training periods, with the exception of the workshops conducted by Imad Eddine Studio, which are characterized by being long-term workshops with special modules.

The language barrier however remains one of the main problems of these workshops, while all Mawred workshops are conducted in Arabic. All workshops are conducted by independent agencies and are funded by the state to which the instructor belongs.

Cultural centers offer other forms of cooperation, such as hosting artists, conducting local workshops and producing some artistic works (occasionally).

Few years ago a play entitled a midsummer night's dream was produced by the Swedish foundation SIDA and was directed by a Swedish female director. The arranger and actors were all Egyptian and all Egyptian technical workers taking part in this work were considered trainees.

The American Cultural Center has recently hosted an American director to direct a play entitled "Baldatuna" (or our town) with Egyptian actors on the state-run Al Hanager Theatre.

The National Circus has recently hosted a Russian troupe to perform a show entitled Circus on Ice.

In short, all cultural activities, as said before, are only seasonal symptoms.

A glance at the co-production sector in Egypt

Co-production in Egyptian cinema began in the first half of the 1940s with two not-so-successful experiments: Land of the Nile (a film shot in 1943 in cooperation with France) and Cairo-Baghdad (a film produced in cooperation with Iraq in 1947).

In 1965 several films were produced in cooperation with Italy, Spain and Japan, such as "Gharam fi al Sahra" (or love in Sahara), in which Egypt was represented by actress Mary Quini.

In the 1960s, co-production was achieved through the public sector, in particular Copro Film Company, in cooperation with Italy.

The Copro productions results were disastrous films and huge losses causing co-production with foreign countries to be cancelled, particularly in the 1970s after a film entitled People and the Nile was produced in cooperation with the USSR.

In the second half of the 1970s, new experiments in the form of co-produced films with Arab countries such as Lebanon were conducted. This experiment resulted in two films: "Habibati" (or My Love) and "Agmal ayam hayati" (or most beautiful days of my life) both directed by Henri Barakat in 1974, but the artistic quality of those films was poor.

During the 1970s and 1980s other experiments were conducted in this field resulting in films co-produced by Egyptian producers and Algerian production companies.

In this context, three landmark films in the history Egyptian and Arab cinema were directed by Youssef Chahine: "Al Asfour" (or the bird) in 1947, "Awdat al ibn al daal" (or The Return Of The Wandering Child) in 1976 and "Iskandaria laih" (or Alexandria Why) in 1979. In addition, "Al aqdar al damiah" (or Bloody Fates) was directed by Khairi Bisharah in 1982 and "Asfour min al sharq" (or Bird of the East) was co-produced with a Saudi company in 1986.

Another experiment worth mentioning is a film entitled Naji Al-Ali released in 1992, which is a co-production by N.B Film and Fann (a Lebanese art magazine).

All these experiments were not subsidized.

The year 1985 marked the beginning of a new stage of Egyptian-French co-production, most of which were conducted through Egypt International Film Company. Eight Egyptian-French films were directed by Youssef Chahine and a number of new directors in this framework emerged such as Yousri Nasrallah, Atef Hetata, Asmaa Al-Bakri and Khaled Al-Hagar.[1]

[1]  Amal Al-Gamal: "Co-production in Egypt (1946-2008), Cinema Horizons Series

Chapter published: 07-04-2016