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Why Old Egyptian Film Posters Attract People to Pursue

posted on: Nov 2, 2022

Photo: Cairo at Night (1963) Poster in Poster House NYC / Source: Jenny Lyu

By: Jenny Lyu / Arab America Content Contributor

I first noticed the Egyptian film poster at Poster House in NYC, the work called Cairo by Night caught my eye, which was the first film completed after pushing Egypt’s film industry nationalization. The poster showed four star-studded singers on the stage, showing lavish production and excellent casting members. Unlike most posters we see today using photos, it uses beautiful and detailed illustrations to tell film or culture stories. However, the nationalized movie industry stopped this burgeoning artisan movie poster industry, as handicraft arts were overhauled by technology dominated movie and poster industry. As old Egyptian film posters gradually disappeared in front of the public and there was no organization to help collect and protect this culture, it became precious.

Art in Vintage Egyptian Film Posters

We unconsciously read information from the poster, but did you ever notice what kind of information or lettering style on film posters? They could deliver a message like a film title, leading actor, tagline, director names, characters, date, etc. The earliest posters in the Egyptian film Industry were crude handbills that mainly highlighted the stars’ big names and the production company. There is a lack of tale content, and an authentic Arabic font written in harmony with all elements in the poster shows Arab culture. After the 30s, Egyptian film posters were distinguished by their tasteful simplicity, turning to underline the buoyancy and innocence of these films through unpretentious artwork. The words start to show the personality and mood of those films. Bold and robust fonts depicted Hero images. Romantic stories were described in a fine line. Some art and design professionals gather and categorize Egyptian lettering styles to show Egyptian film promoting style as a reference for designers and art enthusiasts to create their own.

Photo: Arabic Letter Writing / Source: Pixabay

As the only means of publicity for the film industry, posters conclude all scenes of the film into one illustration picture. With the massive demand for posters in the growing film industry, more and more artists, painters, and calligraphers study and research poster art, freely exploring different styles and images while telling artistic stories. Unlike modern printing, old Egyptian film posters were made by stone lithography. Lithography can have a greater fidelity by drawing or painting, built up with layers of color. Furthermore, metal plates usually open new possibilities for the medium, enabling the production of lithographs from photographic and digital images and prints on larger scales.

Video: Stone Lithography / Source: YouTube

Value of Egyptian Film Posters

Unlike the United States and Europe, Egyptian movie posters are unique and exotic. Combined with Arab culture and societal development being told in those arts,  some say these posters and films are like time capsules from the past. Because of that, there is a lot of film and art enthusiasts started their business. Bahjat Al-Hayek is a poster collector and seller who created his poster business in a digital world. Since he was little, he has collected old movie posters using money from his allowance. As a result, he became fixated on vintage Arabic movies and posters. On chilly days, he likes to watch movies for the plot, the artwork, the cinematography, and the posters, learning the poster’s color scheme, handwriting, and other features.

Post: Arab Film Poster / Source: Instagram

Besides the business, Egyptian film posters also appear in colleges and galleries. Many studies focus on posters in the “golden age” of the Egyptian film industry. Those poster arts also bring political and environmental landscapes to the public. Which educated young people today who missed this time and barely know those old posters get a chance to learn about it. There are also articles about people’s feelings after seeing those film posters. People watch the film and perceive art differently. Movie posters are invitations to those dreams in films to help people build their fantasies and imagination.

Photo: Display Art / Source: Pixabay

In the digital world, a physical archive became the best and earthy way to remember and memorize the shiny Egyptian film industry. Collecting Egyptian film posters became popular. Because of technology and media, even though those works are rare and precious, we still can see them online more and more. Those incredible works of art do not belong to a specific person or group anymore. They are seen and known by the world. This kind of art could attract more people to communicate and give inspiration about what other possibilities of Arabic art and culture could have. While remembering the past, we could think about how to pass on and carry forward our art. That’s the beautiful thing about art and its meaning and value.

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