We’ve already mentioned how watching Arabic films can help you practice your Arabic and make learning Arabic easier. And since most Arabic films are produced in Egypt, there is the extra-added benefit of practicing and learning the Egyptian dialect.
The Egyptian film industry has produced an extraordinary collection of features since its inception in the late 19th century. From gushy romance films to gut-wrenching drama, Egyptian films portray Egypt’s rich popular culture and its historical influence on the global cinema stage.
So what are some of the best Egyptian films that are not only compelling and entertaining, but also beneficial for those looking to improve their Arabic? Here are a few:
The Nightingale’s Prayer
This 1934 film is a convincing tale of love and betrayal, set in the upper Egyptian countryside, follows the story of Amna an illiterate young woman from a small village in rural Egypt as she plots her revenge on the engineer who destroyed her family’s honor. This is truly a wonderful Egyptian film with a timeless soundtrack, a storyline that gives so much insight into the culture, and characters you can easily relate to and care about.
The Flirtation of Girls
In this classic 1949 Egyptian musical, the aging Hamam (played by the legendary Egyptian actor Nagib El-Rihani in his last film) is a poor Arabic teacher who takes a job as a private teacher for those who want to learn Arabic language skills. He soon meets and falls in love with an aristocratic student, the young and beautiful Laila; she, in turn, helps him appreciate the life that he had scorned for so long. In the end, Hamam must decide between his unrealistic feelings or sacrificing his love for Laila. With music composed by incomparable Mohamed Abdel Wahab and songs performed by the celebrated songstress Laila Mourad, this film presents a beautifully delicate story that will also guide you around many of Egypt’s historical sights while exposing the melting pot of culture that lies beneath.
Made in 1958 and directed by Youssef Chahine, Cairo Station is a story about a crippled newspaper salesman at the Cairo train station who has been scorned most of his life. Nevertheless, he develops an unhealthy obsession Hannuma, a woman who sells refreshments at the station. When he is rejected once again by Hannuma, his obsession soon turns to madness. In this very gripping melodrama, we come head-to-head with uncompromising themes of social injustice and the cultural abyss that come with love, suffering, and, above all, the experiences that tie all of us humans together. However, as a result of the film’s disturbingly dark sexual nature, and Egyptian theatergoers’ proclivity for romantic comedies and melodramas, this film was banned in Egypt for 20 years. Still, Cairo Station was just one of the old Egyptian movies submitted for an Oscar in the past as it was Egypt’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 31st Academy Awards in 1959.
Originally titled El Haram in Arabic, The Sin is a hard-hitting social drama released in 1965 about a poor migrant woman named Azziza who becomes a symbol of worker oppression after she is sexually assaulted by a guard while in the fields gathering potatoes for her husband; however, due to her husband’s unnamed health issues, she chooses not to tell him. She later discovers she is pregnant and immediately strangles the baby after it is born, dying herself soon after, becoming a martyr for migrant workers as they rally around her memory. The Sin is unquestionably, this is most one of the most important films to come out of the Egyptian film industry.
The Bus Driver
Hassan is a bus driver and the only brother to five sisters who is trying to provide money for his father’s workshop which was closed due to tax problems. The stress of having to provide money before the workshop is sold at auction takes its toll on Hassan, leading to arguments between him and his wife, usually ending in acts of domestic violence. This 1982 family drama shows a family stretched to its limit and reveals the harsh reality of the relationship between money and family.
Terrorism and the Kebab
In 1992’s Terrorism and the Kebab, our protagonist, Ahmed, works two jobs and is forced to take one day off to arrange for his children to attend a school nearer their home. Frustrated by all the red tape he has to go through, and having to take to take yet another day off to fix his problem when it’s not solved the first day, he gathers some weapons and takes over the Mogamma a famous administrative governmental building in Cairo. At first, government officials label him a “crazy terrorist” until they finally start talking to him and soon realize his very simple demands. Hilarity ensues in this wildly popular Arabic comedy movie filmed in Egypt.
The Yacoubian Building
Filmed in 2006, but set in the 1990s at the time of the first Gulf War, The Yacoubian Building is a film about the tenants of 70-year-old building of once luxurious apartment: an aging libertine, Zika, fights with his sister; Haj Azzam is a devout Muslim who secretly takes a second wife to satiate his sexual drive within the bounds of his religion; Bothayna, poor and beautiful, supports her family out of loyalty and self-respect, while her former fiancé, the son of the building’s janitor named Taha, is shamed by getting in trouble with the police, so turns to fundamentalism; Hatem is a gay editor who seduces and corrupts a young man from the backwoods; and finally, two Coptic Christian brothers, one a tailor and the other who works as Zika’s jack-of-all-trades, cook up a scheme to acquire property. The name of Allah is on everyone’s tongue but corruption is in everyone’s hearts. The film was even submitted to the 79th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, so is definitely the most intriguing must-see of all Egyptian cinema movies.
Asmaa is 2011 film about a woman who suffers from AIDS but chooses to not let it defeat her by putting all she has into her recovery while also giving others who suffer from the disease glimpses of hope. The film is a heart-warming testament of one woman’s struggle in not only overcoming disease, but also overcoming ridicule and gender stereotypes. Asmaa is the first Egyptian movie to portray AIDS patients with empathy, inspiring everyone who sees it to live a life of love and courage.
So, there you are – the best Egyptian cinema has to offer help you learn to speak Arabic, among other Arabic language skills. However, watching Arabic films is only one way that you can learn Arabic faster. Research has shown that the best way to learn Arabic is through the use of an Arabic learning app like the Kaleela Arabic learning app. Visit our website and find out how you can learn Egyptian Arabic or any of the other Arabic dialects spoken throughout the region by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device today. It’s free from kaleela.com
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