Arab Cinema


Since the late 1980s Arab cinema has responded to greater political openness and relative relaxation of official censorship in various Arab states. In addition, a growing number of filmmakers, both local and émigré, have made use of financial and logistical support provided by European producers and agencies. New Arab cinema is also increasingly becoming less Egypt-centered and more trans-Arab in terms of production, themes, and audiences. Although market regulations (leaving local Arab film industries unprotected against Western-based films) and censorship of religious, political, and sexual content take their toll, Arab cinema is fast becoming more interconnected and diversified in its outlook and its audience. On the level of production, for example, Egyptian films are increasingly being produced by Lebanese and Gulf state investors. Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Arab North African filmmakers have also been involved in numerous ventures with European government and private-sector agencies such as Montecinemaverita Foundation and La Sept-Arte, and Egyptian films have been steadily featuring stars from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

In a related arena, an increasing number of television dramas are being made for trans-Arab distribution. After Egypt, Syria has become the second-largest producer of television drama and comedy. In 2004 more than seventy television shows were produced in Syria, most of which were widely distributed and extremely popular around the Arab world, particularly in the Gulf states. Greater relaxation of government restriction on private industries, combined with the recent building of major film and television production facilities near Damascus and the influx of business investments from various Gulf countries, together have created a potentially major base for a trans-Arab film and television industry based in Syria. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of movie theaters around the region remain locally owned and operated, enhancing possibilities for the growth of Arab national cinema and encouraging more diversity in film programming. At the most basic level, these theaters ensure that films from across the Arab world can be seen by other Arabs.

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