NEAR E 584 A: Egyptian Cinema: Glamour on the Nile

Autumn 2022
TTh 6:00pm - 7:50pm / DEN 113
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
CMS 320 C , NEAR E 337 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

September 29,2022


CMS 320 C /NEAR E 337 A / NE 584 A

 Aut 22: Egyptian Cinema: Glamour On The Nile



Glamour on Nile: Egyptian Commercial Cinema

Autumn Quarter 2022



Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                           Class Location: Hybrid

                                                            (both in-person and online-- In-person sessions will be held in: Denny 113)

                                                             —the first three sessions will be held online through Zoom)

 Class Time: TTh 6:00-7:50 PM

SLN: 12905 (CM 320 C)m 19305 (NE 337) or 23398 (NE 584)

Instructor’s Office Hours: (either on Zoom or in person) by appointment (contact instructor through e-mail)

Office: 246 Denny Hall


Telephone: (206)543-6184 (office) or

                   (206) 543-6033 (Dept. Main Office: leave message)


Course Description This quarter the course will focus on the history and development of Egyptian cinema as the venue where Arab film-making most clearly confronted the opportunities and challenges inherent in creating a national film tradition. It will examine a range of topics, including: the transition to sound, the differentiation into genres (with a focus on the examination of the musical and the historical epic), the nationalization of the film industry in the 1960s and how it relates to the “art house” film movement in the West, the role of the director as auteur (through an assessment of the careers of Youssef Chahine and Hasan al-Imam) and the recovery of the Egyptian film industry after 2000


Since this is a NE and CMS prefix course we will only be viewing films subtitled in English. Therefore, no knowledge of Arabic (or any other language except English) is required

            In Autumn 2022 we will examine eight of the films listed below, one from each of the major periods of cinema in Egypt The films for this quarter will be: 1) Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt or Dananir, starring Umm Kulthum; 2) Bab al-Hadid (“Cairo Station,” 1958) starring and directed by Youssef Chahine; 3) El-Nasir Salah al-Din (Saladin, 1963, directed by Izz al-Din Zu al-Fiqar and Youssef Chahine ) 4) Bayn al-Qasrayn (Palace Walk, 1964, directed by Hasan al-Imam); 5) Khalli Balak min Zuzu (Watch Out for Zuzu, 1969, directed by Hasan al-Imam); 6) Al Fallah al-Fasih (The Eloquent Peasant, 1970, directed by Shadi Abdel Salam), 7) Al-Irhab wa al-Kabab (Terrorism and Barbeque, 1992, directed by Sherif Arafa), 8) Al-Massir (Destiny, 1997, directed by Youssef Chahine) and 9) Asma’ (Asmaa, 2011, directed by Amr Salama).


Depending on circumstances, films will be available through UW Library Streaming Services, Netflix, YouTube or an optional Zoom Session with the instructor.  It will be helpful if you have a subscription to Netflix.


Learning Objectives:


At the conclusion of the course, students should be familiar with the following:

1) issues surrounding the representation of images in the Islamic world


2) the development of commercial cinema in Egypt from the 1890s to the present day


3) the major genres of film (musicals, comedies, historical epics, literary adaptations and melodramas) produced by Egyptian studios and how they compare to cinema productions in other parts of the Arab and Western world.


4) the major features of the studio system as it developed in the 20th century in Egypt and what was the framework of the financing system it has been succeeded by


5) the meaning of the French word “auteur” and how it applies in Egyptian cinema.


6) the technical achievements of Egyptian filmmakers since the 1920s


7)  the challenges facing Egyptian filmmakers today.


Course Requirements: The grade for this course will be determined through evaluation of the student’s written projects for the course.


Writing Assignments:

                    1) A position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Friday 7 October 2022 at midnight. The topic of the paper should be either: “Why am I taking this course?” or “How was Ibn al-Haytham’s theory of optics influenced by the traditional Muslim prohibitions against the making of images?” This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.

                    2) A second position paper (at least 2 pp. long), answering either the question 1) “Who is more important to the history of the Egyptian musical, Umm Kulthum or Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab?” or, 2) ”How is the nation presented in Egyptian cinema of the 1930s and 1940s?” will be due tentatively on Monday 24th October 2022 at midnight. It will count for 10% of the final course grade.

                    3) A third position paper (at least 3 pp. long) will tentatively be due Monday 14 21November 2022 at midnight. It should answer the prompt: “The case is frequently made for identifying Youssef Chahine as clearly an “auteur” director in Egyptian cinema. Can the same case be made for the Egyptian director Hasan al-Imam? Why or why not? This paper will count for 15% of the total grade.

I prefer the following format for the papers: Doubled-space, Times New Roman, 12 point font. Since these are position papers (not research writings) you do not need to use material from outside the course. If you do refer to an outside source, you do not need to follow a particular reference style (Chicago, MLA or APA are common ones) though you are welcome to do so. You do need, however, to give me enough information about the reference (author, title, web address [if applicable], date, page number) so that I can find it for myself to read it.

If you are dissatisfied with your grade on any of these writing assignments, you may correct the marked passages and comments on the text Prof. DeYoung returns to you, and re-submit the essay for a higher grade. November 28, 2022 (Monday) at midnight is the last date on which a re-submitted essay will be accepted


In addition to the papers, there will be two sets of (very) short, informal written assignments due during the quarter:


                     A post-lecture reflection to be submitted to Canvas following the Zoom sessions about two of the films we will be looking at during the quarter: 1) Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt or Dananir (due Monday 17 October at midnight), and 2) Cairo Station (Bab al-Hadid) tentatively due Monday 31th October at midnight. These “reflections” will count for 10% of the total grade (5% each).

                     A set of three questions (see handout posted in Canvas for examples) will be due at the beginning of discussion about each of the following films, 1) Salah al-Din (Al-Nasir Salah al-Din), 2) Al-Fallah al-Fasih (The Eloquent Peasant) and 3) Asmaa. See the Assignments List for exact due dates. The questions will count for 15% of the total grade.



Exams: There will be one exam, a take-home final exam (tentatively due Friday 16 December, 2022 by midnight). Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes) a final paper (about 5-8 pages in length) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due at the same time as the final exam.

 The Take-Home Final Exam or Paper will count for 40% of the final grade for undergraduates.


                    The remaining 5% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read (or viewed) the “Primary Readings” before coming to class, and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Asking at least one question in the course of the Zoom session will count as “active participation.” Attendance records (according to University of Washington regulations) may not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for “class participation.


Writing Credit (“W”):

      If students are interested in obtaining “W” credit for the course, they should contact the instructor as soon as possible. Basically, “W” credit can be awarded for completing all the written assignments for the course (and revising them if necessary) + one 5 page extra paper due by the seventh week of the course (to allow time for revision)


For 584 Students:

Those taking this course under the “584” number will be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam. 584 students should make a separate Zoom appointment to talk about their paper with Professor DeYoung by 7 November 2022. This paper will be due on the last day of Finals week.


                In addition, those enrolled in 584 will be required to prepare either:  1) a presentation (about 15 minutes) to be given in class outlining the background of one of the directors covered in the course or 2) a review paper of John Luc Godard’s video  Le Livre d’image, assessing its relevance to Egyptian cinema, or 3) an English translation of one of Mohamed Abou Soliman’s short videos in Arabic on YouTube.

 Students enrolled in the 584 section of the course should consult the instructor about these assignments as soon as possible. The presentation or review paper will count for 10% of the final grade. and substitute for the first position paper


Academic Concerns, Late Assignments and Incompletes

                      Failure to turn in any assignments or take any tests on time will result in an automatic .3 deduction in the student’s grade for that assignment or test. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.

Per FERPA rules, the instructor cannot discuss grades with students via email. Please make an appointment to talk in person or via Zoom if you have concerns.

Incompletes will be awarded only in accordance with UW policy.


Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. This applies to both exams and papers. All policies in place concerning academic honesty at the University of Washington apply to this course.  It is the student’s responsibility to become fully informed about those policies. Refer to the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478120), for more information on the subject, or Search “Student Academic Responsibility” on the University of Washington homepage.

                The general policies about plagiarism in force at the University of Washington will be observed in this course (this applies to both 337 and 584 numbers).



Zoom Conferencing and the Course 

You will need to make arrangements to have access to our course Canvas website: to our virtual meeting space which will be conducted via Zoom Video Conferencing . You will also need to have access to a camera and audio on your computer in order to participate in the sessions.

You will be prompted to sign into our Zoom sessions with your UW Net- ID which will allow you to join our online sessions when we begin on September 29th from TTh 6:00-7:50. Access to both platforms (Canvas and Zoom) will be necessary for completing homework assignments and for earning class participation points.

Zoom sessions will be recorded for this class. Your enrollment in CMS 320/NE 337/NE 584 constitutes acceptance of the terms and conditions posted on the UW Zoom site



Course Schedule and Readings:

The exact schedule of course readings will be found on the “Assignments” page (posted in the Files section) of the Canvas website for this course (which will be made available the second week of classes).

                “Primary Readings” This section on the Assignments page will identify films to be viewed (primarily on YouTube / Netflix or through the UW Language Learning Center) before the indicated class meetings. In addition a selection of translated texts or articles will be listed for some weeks of class. These texts will be made available on Canvas or e-mail directly to students during the quarter. If you think you cannot receive texts by through Canvas or by e-mail attachment, please talk to the instructor individually as soon as possible, in order to make suitable arrangements so that you can get access to the texts as quickly as possible.

                ”Recommended Readings” are for the most part available on line or in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library on reserve.

                “Supplementary” and other listed background readings will mostly be found in the Suzzallo/Allen library, either in the Reference area or the stacks. You should see the instructor if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or optional readings.



Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 3.8 (or above) in this course or any other of her courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions returned to you (with comments), let me know at the time you turn in your exam. You will be able to contact me via e-mail to make arrangements to have me send you the corrected exam (as an attachment) starting Winter Quarter 2023.


Additional Credits: If a student wants to sign up for additional credits for the class or do independent studies (including senior essays) in other quarters, s/he needs to contact the instructor as soon as possible. All such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Disability Accommodations

If you have not yet established services through DRS but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 (voice and relay) or or (Links to an external site.) DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.  More information is available at (Links to an external site.)



Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington implemented the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.


Classroom Courtesy: In an online course, our communication will be visible to all. For fully private communication, you should use individual email or send a message to the instructor on Canvas. You should log in to class on time. Test your camera and audio prior to at least the first session.


 Please do not attend online lessons in your pajamas or while in bed.


It is better not to have private conversations not relevant to the course content (everyone can hear what you are saying) during the Zoom sessions. The chat function will be enabled during the class, and you are free to use it.


Hydration is important. Therefore it is more than acceptable to drink water (or other beverages) during class.   Since the consumption of food during sessions often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, you are requested to avoid this during the Zoom sessions. Your cooperation with these requests will be appreciated




Communications Devices: Please do not use cell phones (or other communications devices) for making calls while logged into Zoom. If you must take a call, please log out. As a general rule you should turn phones off during the Zoom session to minimize disturbance.


Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through each class lecture. This will be an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the Zoom learning environment



Student Conduct

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at (Links to an external site.)

Dispute Resolution

If you have any concerns about the class, try to resolve them first through a meeting with your classroom instructor. If the matter cannot be resolved that way, there are other resources available to students to resolve complaints or grievances, including Humanities Academic Services (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.), the Bias Reporting Tool, (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.), the Office of the Ombud, (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.), the University Complaint and Resolution Office, (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.), and Disability Resources, (Links to an external site.)




Background Reading: Many new and useful critical works about Arabic cinema have become available in the last few decades. Prior to the 1990s there were few materials about Egyptian cinema available in English. The earliest overview of Arab cinema (and still a very useful work) is Lizbeth Malkmus and Roy Armes, Arab and African Filmmaking (London: Zed Books, 1991). Call Number: PN1993.5 A66 M3 1991, print only (available in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library stacks). This book was followed by Viola Shafik’s Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity, rev. ed. (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007). Call Number is: PN1993.5 A65 S5313 2007 (available on-line). Professor Shafik recently published another book specifically on Egyptian film, Popular Egyptian Cinema (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2006). Call Number is PN1993.5 E3 S424 2007 (available on-line). In 2001, Professor Joel Gordon (University of Arkansas) published a valuable assessment of the “Golden Age” of Egyptian Cinema in 2001: Revolutionary Melodrama. Call Number: PN1993.5 A65 C66 2002 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust). In 2014, Prof. Nathaniel Greenberg (George Mason University) published a study of the postwar film career of the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz: The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952-1967), which contains much valuable insight into the Golden Age of Egyptian Cinema. Call Number : PJ7846 A46Z653 2014 (available o- line, 3 user access).

The development of early cinema from Arabic popular theater and drama can be explored in the first instance through M. M. Badawi, Early Arabic Drama (1988). Many of the figures—like Naguib al-Rihani—that Badawi profiles in this book will go on to have a significant impact on Egyptian filmmaking. Call Number PJ8211 B3 1988 (print only). Walter Armbrust’s groundbreaking Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (1996) follows in the steps of Badawi’s book and more clearly delineates the popular cultural aspects of Egyptian cinema. Call number: DT107.826 A76 1996 (print only). The same is true of Ziad Fahmy’s Ordinary Egyptians (2011). Call Number: DT70 F225 2011 (also available on online through the UW Libraries webpage).

General Works about Important Genres in Egyptian Film:

            Approximately 1/3 of the films emerging from Egypt between 1930 and 1970 were musicals. Therefore, books that interpret and analyze the musical as a genre of film are particularly important for understanding the Egyptian studio system. Helpful works in this regard include: Corey K. Creekmur and Linda Y. Mokdad (eds.), The International Film Musical, 2013, (available on line through the UW Library website), Raymond Knapp, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, 2005 (available on line through the UW Library website), and Rick Altman, The American Film Musical, 1987 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust).

The historical epic has also been a staple of Egyptian cinema. Relevant books include Nicholas Haydock and E.L. Risden (eds.), Hollywood in the Holy Land: Essays on Film Depictions of the Crusades and Christian-Muslim Clashes, 2009 Call Number: PN1995.9 M52 H65 2009 (print only) and Steven C. Caton, Lawrence of Arabia: A Film’s Anthropology, 1999. Call Number: PN1997 L353 C38 1999 (available on line through the UW Library website).

The history of comedy, of course, far transcends the limits of cinema, but particular works that are relevant to the development of comedy in Egyptian film include Geoff King, Film Comedy, 2002. Call Number PN1995.9 K529 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust),  Mark Winokur, American laughter: immigrants, ethnicity, and 1930s Hollywood film comedy (1996) Call Number: PN1995.9 C55 W52 1996 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust) and Eric Waltz, The Cambridge Introduction to Comedy, 2009. Call Number: PN1922 C27 2009 (print only).

Finally, adaptations from other media (especially literature and drama) have had an on-going influence on Egyptian film. General works written on the subject of adaptation that apply to Egyptian cinema include George Bluestone, Novels into Film, 1957 (Call Number: PN1997.85 B5 1957 1-user access online through Hathi Trust) and Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen, 2007 (available on online through the UW Libraries webpage).


Notable Figures in the Development of Egyptian Film:

Prior to the rise of cinema in Egypt, there were many stars of Egyptian musical theater who had an impact on the development of cinema styles. An exciting new book by Raphael Cormack, Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring Twenties (New York W.W. Norton and Company, 2021) has just come out that chronicles, in a very lively and accessible way, the theatrical substratum on which cinema built.

The works (cinematic or otherwise) of the famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum provide an insightful perspective on the interchange between Egyptian musical theater and the cinema in the twentieth century. The essential resource in this regard is Virginia Danielson’s The voice of Egypt : Umm Kulthūm, Arabic song, and Egyptian society in the twentieth century(1997). Call Number: ML420 U46 D36 1997 (available on line through the UW Library webpage. Michal Goldman’s 1996 video, Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt (available through streaming video from the UW Library) is based on this book. More recently Laura Lohman has examined Umm Kulthum’s post-1967 influence in Umm Kulthūm: artistic agency and the shaping of an Arab legend, 1967-2007  Call Number: ML420 U46  L65 2010 (available on line through the UW Library website).

The Egyptian filmmaker who most embodied the Western prototype of the auteur and its director-centered aesthetic was Youssef Chahine. He pioneered independent, self-financed filmmaking in Egypt, but he got his training in the Hollywood-style film system of Studio Misr. His notable works include almost every genre of popular film in Egypt in the latter half of the twentieth century: film noir, literary adaptation, historical epic, comedy, realistic drama and his most abiding love, the musical. In 2001, Ibrahim Fawal published in the series “World Directors” sponsored by the British Film Institute an exhaustive biography of Chahine, Youssef Chahine, based on extensive interviews with the director. He includes a complete filmography and summaries of each of Chahine’s films in the appendixes. Call Number: PN1998.3 Y688 F39 2001. Although the book is held by more than 187 libraries worldwide, and could therefore normally be easily accessed through interlibrary loan, the University of Washington has neither a print nor an e-book copy of the volume. More recently (2010), Malek Khouri has  published  a study of Chahine’s role in molding Arab nationalist discourse, The Arab national project in Youssef Chahine's cinema, which concentrates usefully on his early work in the Egyptian studio system. Call Number: PN1998.3.S447 K46 2010  (1-user access online through Hathi Trust). 25 January 2026 will be the 100th anniversary of Chahine’s birth. Many celebrations are planned at this time, along with new publications about his life and work. Currently, re-mastered versions of his most famous films are available on Netflix.

            Another recent grounding-breaking book highlighting the financial aspect of early Egyptian cinema and its interactions with other Arab cinema traditions is Deborah Starr’s Togo Mizrahi and the Making of Egyptian Cinema (2020). Available as an open-access free book on line at the UW Library webpage. Mizrahi directed and financed a number of the most successful Egyptian films of the 1930s and 1940s, including many comedies but also filmed versions of the 1001 Nights tales. Starr weaves Mizrahi’s story together through her analysis of the “Levantine” sensibility brought to perfection by Mizrahi, but also prominent in the work of other influential Egyptian filmmakers, like Nagib al-Rihani and Youssef Chahine.


A useful resource (especially for factual information on individuals, genres and national film traditions) is  The Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film, ed. Oliver Leaman (London: Routledge, 2001. Call Number is: PN1993.5 A65 C66 2001 (on line access through the UW Library website) A second valuable informational resource for our course will be Roy Armes, Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010). Available on-line through the UW Library webpage

Last updated:
May 28, 2024 - 10:23 pm