Dream Factory on the Nile: Posters and Memorabilia from the Golden Age of Egyptian Film

Exhibit offers crash course in historic Egyptian cinema

From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Egyptian motion picture industry produced films of such number and quality that it earned the nickname "The Hollywood on the Nile." Its films dominated the Arab market from North Africa to the Gulf, and successfully competed with films being released by the Hollywood on the Pacific. This exhibit brings together promotional posters, photographs, press booklets, and lobby cards from some of the finest films of the era, paired with narrative text by Stanford librarian David Giovacchini. In addition to his role as Bibliographer for the Arts in the Islamic World, Giovacchini is an avid and knowledgeable film buff and the organizing force behind the Middle East Film Series, which has brought the best of Middle Eastern film to the Stanford community for the past five years.

The Stanford collection, which comprises more than 400 Egyptian film posters, has been built over the past five years by Giovacchini and Middle East Collections Curator John Eilts to provide source material for the study of Egyptian popular culture and twentieth-century history, cinematography, and graphic design. Comments Giovacchini, "One of the best ways to learn about a culture is to study the stories it tells itself on the big screen. The Egyptian filmmakers, while certainly influenced by American films, adapted the conventions for their own purposes and created something essentially Egyptian."  

The collection's posters offer an almost complete roster of the stars of the Egyptian screen from the 1930s through to the present. Represented in the exhibit are some of the biggest stars, such as heartthrob Abdel Halim Hafez; handsome leading men like Omar Sharif, Farid Shawqi, Yusuf Wahbi, and Anwar Wajdi; melodrama queen Faten Hamama; funnyman Ismail Yasin; graceful dancers like Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, and Naimah Akef; and legendary singers Muhammad Abdel Wahhab, Umm Kulthum, Leila Murad, and Farid El Atrache. Also shown are materials relating to some of the industry's best directors, producers and screenwriters. The posters on display are credible facsimiles produced from high-resolution scans of the originals, which are too fragile and large to display in the available exhibition cases.

Dream Factory on the Nile: Posters and Memorabilia from the Golden Age of Egyptian Film will be on display from January 18 through May 2, 2010. Exhibit cases are illuminated Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The gallery is accessible whenever Green Library is open and hours vary with the academic schedule. For Library hours, call 650-723-0931.

NOTE: first-time visitors must register at the south entrance portal to Green Library's East Wing to gain access to the exhibition on the second floor of the Bing (west) Wing. For a map of campus and transportation information, go to http://www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo/plan/maps.html.